What Personal Accountability Means in An Epidemic of Excuses 

When people constantly make excuses or blame someone else for their mistakes and underperformance, it's a sure sign that there is an unhealthy culture at their place of work. For organisations to succeed, every employee must demonstrate personal accountability.

When people constantly make excuses or blame someone else for their mistakes and underperformance, it’s a sure sign that there is an unhealthy culture at their place of work.

Why Personal Accountability Matters in a World Ripe with Excuses

1. Understand the role of personal accountability.

2. Attack the enemies called “excuses” and “blame shifting”.

3.  Implement consequences for those who don’t take accountability.

Personal accountability is not only important at work. It builds a strong sense of self-worth and confidence that will stick with you throughout a lifetime.

1.  Understand the Role of Personal Accountability

Personal accountability means taking responsibility for your words and deeds and their consequences, regardless of whether someone else is also responsible. Underperformance is one example.

If something goes wrong at work, you’re accountable for finding out why, fixing it, and making sure it doesn’t happen again.

Putting it frankly, if you make a mess, you should acknowledge it and own up. And when things go well, you may take the well-deserved credit.

Personal accountability has many benefits: it builds trust, encourages teamwork and collaboration, and helps identify challenges early on so these can be fixed before they become serious issues.

It’s important to remember that “the buck stops here” isn’t just a saying. It is a way of life!

2.  Attack the Enemies Called “Excuses” and “Blame Shifting”

In the corporate world, it’s easy to blame colleagues for one’s own underperformance.

You can make excuses, say that you didn’t have enough time to complete a task or even blame technology for not working properly.

But the truth is that if you do not take responsibility and learn, you’ll never grow.

Excuses are an individual’s attempt to duck responsibility for the absence or presence of certain attitudes, behaviours and mindsets. Sometimes they are required (e.g. “can do” attitude) and other times they should never have surfaced (e.g. losing one’s temper).

Making excuses is also a form of laziness because it prevents you from rectifying negative behaviours or improving weak areas of your character/performance at work (or elsewhere).

No person can be consistently successful if s/he is not willing to embrace accountability.

The problem is that excuses don’t help us achieve long-term goals or solve problems; they just give us a temporary sense of relief because it removes the immediate pressure momentarily.

Blame shifting at work is when an employee or manager deflects responsibility for wrongful behaviour and/or underperformance (amongst others) and then accuses someone else of causing these.

This implies that the outcomes and circumstances were beyond your control. The so-called “blame game” is a form of manipulation.

When we blame others for our own shortcomings, it makes us falsely believe we’re not alone in our failure. One might argue that it is a form of denial.

Do not allow yourself to get into the tuneless rhythm of blaming others.

Blame shifting is a major problem in organisations. A lot of people assume it makes them look good – like they’re being smart and savvy by refusing to accept that it’s their fault, even though everyone knows otherwise.

What these people don’t understand is that ultimately blame projection damages your reputation and reflects badly on you.

3.  Implement Consequences for Those Who Don’t Take Accountability

Personal accountability is a vital component for any successful business, irrespective of the size or industry.

In order to ensure that employees are taking full responsibility, you must clearly communicate expectations and give them the tools they need to succeed.

In fairness, one can’t keep employees accountable if you set them up for failure to start with.

When accountability is missing from the workplace, it means people are less likely to be truthful about what went wrong and more prone to blame colleagues for mistakes.

Over time, this breeds distrust among co-workers and can create an atmosphere where people don’t try new things because they know what’s coming if something goes wrong.

For organisations to succeed, every employee must demonstrate personal accountability.

This creates an organisational culture where employees are more productive and engaged in their work.

If you notice any of these signs at work, it’s time for a diagnosis. People will:

  • Make excuses for themselves as opposed to owning up when things go wrong.
  • Blame others for problems that happened on their watch.
  • Avoid responsibility by saying things like “it wasn’t my fault,” or “I didn’t have enough information”.
  • Not apologise when they mess up (or they apologise but then immediately try to justify why what they did was OK).

This creates a toxic environment where nobody admits fault and there are no chances for personal or organisational improvement.

Here are things to consider to foster personal accountability:

  • If a team member consistently doesn’t take accountability, they should be put on probation and/or receive training.
  • In severe cases, let them go from the organisation. This should only happen after all legal and HR processes have been reasonably followed and there is still no improvement from the employee in question.
  • Don’t wait until it’s too late to address accountability issues. Start already during employee induction to establish the understanding and expectations of accountability.
  • Make sure everyone knows exactly what their responsibilities are, and communicate clearly and often enough so that no one is confused.
  • If someone does something wrong, don’t get into a heated argument about it. Communicate what their mistake was and how they should handle it differently next time. Suffice to say that this process cannot continue indefinitely without demonstrated improvement.