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What are the 2 Main Differences Between Accountability and Responsibility?

By Darren Finkelstein
By Darren Finkelstein

The Accountability Guy®

Home » Corporate Accountability » What are the 2 Main Differences Between Accountability and Responsibility?
Young Corporate Team Having a Meeting

Workplace success largely depends on your decisions and how you respond to others’ decisions. As a business leader, you must understand that your actions and decisions impact your company’s long-term operations. Understanding also means accepting your role and owning your decisions. Since the process is a mix of responsibility and corporate accountability, it can be pretty confusing for many.

That’s why we have decided to help you understand the major difference between accountability and responsibility in the corporate context.

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Table of Contents

What is Corporate Responsibility?

Corporate responsibility closely relates to the completion of various projects and tasks. If you’re responsible for something, it means you must ensure the task is completed optimally. 

For instance, if you lead a software development firm, you are responsible for delivering top-notch apps to clients alongside your team. Today, 93% of the top 250 companies publish annual corporate responsibility reports, which shows us how prevalent the idea is in the industry. 

Therefore, responsibility is often associated with a particular project outcome. One crucial aspect of responsibility is that it cannot be forced upon you; you almost always take the responsibility to complete a certain task.

What is Corporate Accountability?

While responsibility comes before a certain task and moves along with it, accountability usually comes after completing a task. Therefore, it concerns how certain actions have been taken, how they have impacted a particular project, and whether they have benefited or harmed a company. 

It is usually confined to one person but can also apply to a team because most projects have more than one person working on them.

Corporate Accountability and Responsibility - Two Major Differences

Although people often confuse these terms, there are subtle differences between them, and a detailed discussion will help us understand them better.

Obligation Vs. Reporting Duty

Responsibility means the duties assigned to a team member or a team as a whole. The people responsible must complete the assigned task within a time frame while maintaining pre-defined standards. 

On the other hand, corporate accountability refers to reporting duty related to the results or outcomes of a particular task. Once a certain task has been completed, a thorough inspection is required to see if it meets the pre-defined criteria.

Shared Vs. Assigned

Usually, responsibility means that a whole team is working on a particular task and must collaborate to complete it. The team works together towards a common goal and ensures the final product or service is up to the mark. 

On the contrary, corporate accountability is assigned to the team leader or a particular team member, whether the project outcome is positive or negative.

Examples Illustrating the Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility

Let’s illustrate corporate accountability and responsibility differences with some pertinent examples.

Example #1

Jack is an inventory executive at a shoe company. His responsibilities include checking inventory stocks for quality, ensuring adequate supplies of all shoes, preventing theft, and more. Jack is responsible for returning an item to stock as quickly as possible whenever it runs low. Unfortunately, he miscounts the number of off-white sneakers for the white ones.

One week passes, and Jack realizes his mistake when the Managers inquire about it. Jack is responsible for maintaining an adequate number of white sneakers in stock, while his Manager is responsible for holding him accountable. As we can see, one person’s responsibility can be another person’s accountability.

Example #2

Anna and Amanda work at a department store, where they respond to customer queries by email and phone within 48 hours. They share the same inbox but have different duty timings. One day, a customer calls their manager, telling her they are upset because they have not received a response to their email even after a week. 

Anna had opened the email but didn’t reply, making Amanda think the former had already done that. Now, Anna took accountability and sent a prompt reply to the customer. Similarly, Amanda took responsibility for not double-checking emails during her shift.

Major Differences Between Responsibility and Corporate Accountability


Responsible Person 

Accountable Person 

Scope of Focus 

Specific projects and tasks in the context of their roles. 

Overall results, a broader perspective. 


Individual accountability for project completion. 

Accountable for decisions and their results. 


So, now you know the fundamental differences between responsibility and corporate accountability in a corporate context. Both of these concepts have far-reaching consequences on a company’s health and standing in the market. Therefore, as a leader, it’s pertinent for you to learn about them through a high-quality mentorship program that I offer at TickThoseBoxes.

If you want to know more you can take a look at my accountability coaching packages or book an accountability assessment.