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Can A Person Be Accountable And Not Responsible?

By Darren Finkelstein
By Darren Finkelstein

The Accountability Guy®

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Are you wondering if a person can be accountable and not responsible? This blog seeks to address that question. You’ll also know the difference between the two and the importance of accountability in the workplace.

To answer your question, yes, a person can be accountable and not responsible. For example, an intern might be responsible for a task; however, the intern’s manager will be held accountable in case any issues arise.

You might find it easier to understand the answer by diving into the differences between accountability and responsibility

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What is Accountability?

Simply put, accountability is when a person is willing to take ownership for the actions, results, and more of their team members. Accountability means you are willing to accept the consequences of an action that you aren’t responsible for.

An accountable person is one who is answerable for a decision, activity, or task. They are the ones who bear the onus of a mistake committed by someone else in their team.

A project manager or leader is accountable as they have to justify, report, answer, or explain their decisions, tasks, delegation, or anything else. They may not have power or control over the task. However, they will be held accountable for it. They are expected to justify the final outcome and bear the brunt of any problems.

What is Responsibility?

Responsibility is task-oriented. You are responsible for something that is in your power, control and you choose to do it willingly.

A responsible person is answerable for the results of their task. Responsibility is something you choose to do because you have the skillset, and your role determines it. It is the job description, defined roles, or task that helps achieve certain goals.

If you are given a responsibility, you are responsible for the task’s implementation, execution, and completion. Moreover, for huge tasks, you can share responsibility amongst your team members.

Note that you are responsible and accept rewards and consequences for that task. While you may not be answerable, you need to be responsible and not neglect your responsibilities.

What Is The Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility?

It might be easier for you to understand that a person can be accountable and not responsible through this table

Accountability

Responsibility

You may not have power or control over the task

You have power and control over the task

You are answerable

You may not be answerable

It’s a leadership quality

It’s a follower quality

You take ownership of everything

You merely complete your duty

This occurs only after the task is done or not

It occurs before or after the task

Accountability cannot be shared

Responsibility can be shared

Assigned and result oriented

It cannot be assigned and is task-oriented

Accountability and responsibility are different. That’s why the accountable person may not be responsible. An accountable person may not have the power or control over the task. They merely take ownership of the results, whether negative or positive.

On the other hand, some people are too perfectionist to delegate. They don’t get that sense of ultimate satisfaction until they’ve done everything by themselves. Consequently, they get caught up in too much work, which again means delays, declining quality of work or worse, a total burnout.

What is the Importance of Accountability in the Workplace?

You might further understand that an accountable person may not be responsible by understanding the importance of accountability in the workplace.

If you are assigned accountability in the workplace, it becomes easier for the company to succeed. Accountability in the workplace does the following:

  • It builds trustworthiness
  • It improves performance
  • It saves time and avoids blame games after a situation has occurred
  • It promotes ownership
  • It helps in improving communications. When you are accountable for something, you ensure you communicate responsibilities clearly.
  • Accountability helps in increasing your team member’s confidence and skills
  • It boosts your company’s culture
  • It helps improve customer service
  • Accountability ensures lesser turnovers and lesser expenses
  • It creates a healthy work environment
  • Accountability helps in increasing your team member’s engagement in their responsibilities
  • If you are held accountable, you will ensure your team follows and adheres to all company rules, laws, and regulations.
  • Accountability will improve your bottom line

How to Build Accountability and Responsibility in the workplace?

Now you know the importance of accountability and the difference between accountability and responsibility. You might wonder how to foster responsibility and accountability in the workplace.

  • Ensure you assign accountability to a manager, project manager, or a leader
  • As a leader, you must ensure your team member feels empowered to take up responsibilities to achieve company goals.
  • Set definitive, achievable goals and get commitment to foster accountability and responsibility
  • As a leader, ensure you give regular and detailed feedback to your team members.
  • Ensure you know when to take accountability in case something goes wrong
  • Communicate and ensure you get feedback from your team members to understand their perspectives.
  • Ensure you act on any feedback you receive to increase your trustworthiness.
  • Do what you say to achieve your company goals and foster trustworthiness
  • As an accountable leader, ensure you support your team members and guide them to reach their full potential

Endnotes

An accountable person need not be responsible. Responsibility is task-oriented, while accountability is result-oriented. An accountable person doesn’t have control and power over the task and merely bears ownership for the results.

If you are stuck on fostering accountability in your organization, consult an accountability coach like Tick Those Boxes. They will chat with you about your goals, understand where you stand, and help you achieve those goals. Plus, they will help you build a company that uses accountability for its success

So, be an accountable person even if you are not responsible and build a thriving work culture!