The Self-Awareness Guy

Leadership and Avoiding Responsibility

Perhaps you've encountered a leadership scenario where you ask an employee about some task or project that didn't go too well and he (or she) quickly shirks responsibility. This type of behavior is common in many workplaces because we design them that way. We create work environments where it's not acceptable to make mistakes and where people will do anything to avoid the consequences. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be that way. Here are some ideas to help leaders and employees accept responsibility for their actions:

  • Realize that people make mistakes.
  • Allow people to make mistakes without being punished or reprimanded.
  • Use mistakes as an opportunity for people to evaluate what they did correctly and what they would change in the future.
  • Encourage people to come up with their own solutions on how they would avoid repeating the same behaviors in the future.
  • Make it acceptable for people to admit that something went wrong without being mocked by leadership or co-workers.
  • Implement an authentic open-door policy where people can come in and talk with you about what's going well and what needs attention without fear of retribution.
  • Avoid talking down to people or reprimanding them in front of others. Try having a calm conversation where you listen to what happened instead of clobbering the person publicly or privately.
  • Leadership sets a positive example by taking responsibility when things don't go as planned and working hard to find positive solutions.

One of the major reasons people avoid responsibility is that they think they'll look dumb or incompetent or that they'll be punished in some way. If your company culture is set up to hurt or shame people then they'll naturally avoid accepting responsibility for their actions. On the other hand, if you promote a philosophy where people are encouraged to learn from their mistakes, they'll be more open to evaluating and improving their behavior. The underlying idea is to move away from a punitive culture to one where people are allowed to learn from their mistakes. What will you do to help people accept responsibility for their actions?