Accountability: Own it or own up

Tuesday, 21 January 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Imanthi Perera 

The corporate space can often be a battlefield. A battlefield with missions set and targets lined up, agile and tactical cultures fostered from top downwards, and employees trained and groomed to maneuver their way through to a foreseeable or sometimes unforeseeable victory. 

Each employee is tasked with a set of responsibilities that contribute towards achieving the bigger goal, and delivering on these assigned responsibilities confirms one’s level of professionalism and sense of accountability – attributes that are absolutely essential in the workplace. 

So what exactly is accountability from an employee’s perspective? In my view, it comes down to two things. Owning it and owning up. Let me try and dissect the two. 

Owning it is essentially taking full responsibility for the role that you have been given and with it, doing justice to the responsibilities that come along with it. We are recognised and hired for the skill set and expertise that we bring in, all considered critical to deliver on the organisation’s expectations. 

Your remuneration too reflects the severity and seniority of the role and as a result, the organisation and your peers will expect great things from you or at the very least, to do the job you have been assigned to do. 

However, more often than not, professionals tend to ‘pass the buck’ or adeptly reassign tasks to one another in meeting rooms, via emails or sometimes, making it someone’s responsibility by simply refusing to take up the task. This often leaves the team in jeopardy, where another employee with more integrity towards the company and a higher level of professionalism steps up to complete the task. 

We even come across instances where an employee may feign the inability to do a task, say they lack clarity on the expectation, or even go to the extent of saying that the assigned task is ‘not their responsibility’. While this could lead to debates and more delays in delivery, it inevitably leads to the task being reassigned to someone who ‘will get the job done’. 

This may seem like a great place for the accountable employee to be in (to be seen in a positive light by his/her seniors) but also kick starts an unhealthy pattern where one is inundated with work (possibly even out of their scope) while the other gets away scot-free. Sounds familiar? This is how one employee’s lack of owning it and driving a task towards its completion can create a toxic and unjust environment for another. 

What does it mean to own up then? Look at it this way. Our careers will not go completely unblemished – there is always potential for us to make blunders, make bad calls and basically, mess up on the job. This is what we call experience – learning the dos and don’ts of a job and ensuring that we avoid repeating the don’ts. 

When we do make a mistake, the magnitude of it could be on different scales. It could be something low-key, an error that barely had an impact on anything. It could also be something that could blow up full-scale, with severe consequences not just on you but on your company as well. 

To err is human and this is something that responsible companies are well prepared for. But, as an adult and a professional that has been trusted with a certain role, it’s important that you step up and own up to your leadership, following the line of command and accepting that there has been a blunder made from your end. 

While this may mean that there may still be consequences for you (depending on the severity), it can’t be denied that you have demonstrated professionalism and accountability in your role. This could be a point of consideration in the event of an evaluation but above all else, you can be rest assured that you have acted with complete integrity. 

Lack of accountability could lead to you continuously shying away from responsibilities and showing inconsideration towards your peers. Owning up or owning it on the other hand, will play a critical role in building your character and developing your personality to become a better human being and value addition to society. 

Choosing the right path is a choice that only you can be held accountable for. Do choose wisely.

(The writer is a corporate communications professional.)