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Home » Accountability » Do Accountability and Responsibility Mean the Same?

Do Accountability and Responsibility Mean the Same?

By Darren Finkelstein
By Darren Finkelstein

The Accountability Guy®

During her presentation, a mature woman introduces her fellow panelists and explains the focus of the conference.

Are you struggling to get things done?

Most people get confused between the terms accountability and responsibility as they are seemingly similar. But there is a significant difference between the two, and if you are unaware of it, this article is for you.

The key difference between accountability and responsibility is that the latter can be shared, but the former is personal.

We have broken down both the concepts and covered them individually in this article for clarity.

Let’s begin without further delay.

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What is Accountability?

Individual accountability is a concept that develops after an event has occurred. It’s about accepting responsibility for your actions and making sure you do what you say you’ll do. It can also be defined as how a person reacts when a task they’ve been assigned goes awry.

As a result, it is more concerned with the repercussions of someone’s actions than with their initial responsibility to carry out these actions. Accepting responsibility for the result, whether favorable or poor and doing all possible to fix the situation are also part of it.

So, even if numerous people are responsible for completing a task, just one of them is usually responsible for the repercussions.

What is Responsibility?

Unlike accountability, responsibility is not limited to a single person, and multiple people can share it. For example, a team may be jointly responsible for delivering a project or the management of a situation.

Further, it arises from a superior-subordinate relationship, in which the junior is obligated to complete the work given to him by the senior. However, assigning responsibility to your team is impossible since it should come from within and cannot be imposed. So, if you’re in charge of anything, it’s your responsibility to do the tasks assigned to you.

However, it should be noted that it does not emerge at any particular point; instead, it is there throughout the procedure.

Key Differences Between Accountability and Responsibility

Differences are best understood when appropriately contrasted. Here is a table to give you more clarity on the difference-

Accountability

Responsibility

It is a condition in which a person is expected to take ownership of their actions.

It is the duty to deliver or complete the tasks assigned.

It is personal.

It can be associated with a group of people.

The person accepts accountability.

Responsibility is assigned to a person.

It cannot be delegated.

It can be delegated.

It is not an obligation and a matter of choice.

It is usually an obligation and not a matter of choice.

It comes into the picture after the situation or task is over.

It is in place while a person or team is working towards the goal.

It is result-focused.

It is task-focused.

Examples to Elucidate the Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility

Now that you know the key difference, it is time to discuss the examples for better understanding. Here is a list of a few examples, have a look-

Household Chores

If you live alone, then you aren’t answerable to anyone for not doing the dishes, laundry, or any other chore on time. Hence, you are not accountable for these tasks but responsible. However, if you live with your parents and they ask you to do something, the case will be different. Suppose your parents have asked you to do the dishes before they get back home, and you fail to do so. In this case, you will be answerable to them, and you will have to give reasons for not dismissing the assigned work. Hence, you will both be responsible and accountable.

At Workplace

If you are a manager, then it is your responsibility to check your subordinates and ensure all tasks are completed on time. However, you will be held accountable if you make any errors while reviewing the tasks or fail to ensure timely delivery. It is your choice to either blame your employees or accepts your mistake. But remember that the former is what an accountable person should do.

On-Road

Suppose you are driving on a road that is filled with puddles. It is your responsibility to drive safely and ensure others don’t get hurt in such a case. However, if you have an accident and hurt someone, you will be accountable for the damage. Wrapping It Up While the concepts may appear to be interchangeable, there are crucial differences when comparing responsibility and accountability in the workplace. And now, it must be clear to you that responsibility is not always related to the consequences, but accountability is. Additionally, it’s critical to understand the distinctions in order to know who is responsible and who is accountable for specific outcomes. Understanding the difference will help you correctly judge and evaluate your employees’ performance. And now that you know all the differences, we hope that your confusion is cleared.