This is not my job!

The price of greatness is a responsibility, said Winston Churchill.

What makes people avoid responsibility? Some say the company culture does everything in its power to strip you from taking responsibility. Some say I don’t need to do that since I don’t get anything from it. Whether it is a fear of being shot at dawn, pure concentration to your own incentives, or fear of making decisions, it’s a competence level I would like to find in a candidate already during an interview. And that’s hard.

Not my circus, not my monkeys

I’d say any ability to handle a burden in life, and deal with events, decisions, and their effects are quite useful. I would even consider that as one of those abilities which are on the list of must-dos, and the earlier you find this skill within yourself, the better it will be for your wellbeing, your productivity, your close ones, and your life in general.

According to David Rock, when there is a cultural milieu that punishes mistakes, people will try to avoid the stick more than they will move towards the carrot. This is quite logical and obvious, taking into consideration the statement that no one wants to be responsible for failure.

There are still some people who accept accountability despite the environment. That’s usually only because they feel confident within themselves that whatever happens, they will deal with it. The more we believe that other people may take responsibility, the more irresponsible we become.

Another reason, according to Mr. Rock, is the unwillingness to take responsibility based on knowing that someone else is already responsible for a particular task or action.

This kind of behavior is found in team situations when one person or just a few team members or even a more substantial mass is either blindly following instructions or remaining passive. In these cases phenomenon called diffusion of responsibility takes place.

Diffusion of responsibility

Diffusion of responsibility occurs when a person who needs to take action or make an important decision waits for someone else to act instead. It makes the person who is “under pressure to take action” feel less stressed since he believes that someone else will take care of everything. Therefore, diffusion of responsibility keeps a person from paying attention to his own conscience and, consequently, decreases the possibility of feeling responsible for any mistakes. Consequently, when we don’t feel responsible for a situation, we feel less guilty when we do nothing to help or to act. (More on the diffusion of responsibility here )

Give responsibility, get decision-makers

Whether it is about hiding from a specific task or responsibility, decision making in complex situations is not materially different from decision making daily.

The moment a person realizes that someone else can deal with a problem, there is little motivation to act on one’s own. That is the type of people who are not able to work on their own because, according to Rock “once they face a problem, it seems to be an apocalypse for them.”

The fact is life is full of surprises, changes, challenges, and problems, and the faster you learn how to take responsibility for each step, the better it will be for you.

In my opinion, the only way to make decision-makers or to become a decision-maker on your own is to have a chance to face responsibility directly, given the understanding that we all fail at times, and it’s ok. Without allowing making decisions, you won’t get people who make decisions.