That hides behind the cause and the effect.”
“I was only following orders,”
the Mayor mocks.
“The refuge of scoundrels since the dawn of time.”
I just wrote about personal accountability and in that post I mentioned … ‘accountability in today’s business world is stuck in the sludge at the bottom of the business moral barrel.’
I believe accountability in business is either nonexistent or far too random to be considered standard operating procedure.
To be clear <part 1>.
Despite this being about working and the business world this is not about someone holding you accountable. This is about you holding yourself accountable especially when no one is holding you accountable <even though there is always someone holding you accountable in business>.
To be clear <part 2>.
Today’s business world is strewn with cowards. I know that sounds harsh but not only do people fear being accountable in general … they are absolutely scared shitless to be accountable for indirect consequences … being accountable for anything beyond the obvious cause & effect. It is cowardly behavior. It is the ‘refuge of scoundrels.’
Speaking of scoundrels.
Yes. I know there are good responsible people willing to assume responsibility & be accountable throughout business. They just seem harder & harder to find. And it becomes even harder because the scoundrels use two main tactics to throw you off:
– passive aggressive accountability.
Maybe we call this false humility. Under the guise of humility they appear to be accepting accountability in the beginning only to aggressively take a stance of pride or indignant with regard to ‘uncovering the errors or mistakes to resolve the issue for the future.’ This is the “I assume responsibility … BUT’ behavior.
This is simply out and out fucking passive aggressive behavior simply playing the game to avoid the stickiness of accountability.
– selective accountability.
Whew. These scoundrels really know how to play the game and play people.
Suffice it to say, not all accountability is created equal. These scoundrels seem to have a sixth sense on when to assume accountability and when to side step and let someone else take the blame. They have a knack for invariably selecting the situations which gain them ‘they are accountability type people’ status and selecting the situations to avoid which would taint them with some ‘they seem to make a lot of mistakes.’
While businesses claim they embrace ‘mistakes with good intentions’ they aren’t really. The reality is they abhor and are relentlessly critical of those who dare to make mistakes – well intended mistakes or lazy mistakes. These selective type scoundrels are incredibly good at easing the mistake label over to someone else.
And beyond recognizing the scoundrel tactics … it gets worse in my eyes when I google search ‘integrating accountability in business.’ Almost everyone discusses, in some form or fashion, the need to ‘clarify what it means to be accountable.’
Clarify what it is? Please.
Accountability, to me, equates to a fearlessness bred within an organization — fearless in terms of making mistakes <and not being overly chastised for doing so> and fearless in terms of a ‘doing what is right’ mentality. This is organizational culture stuff <and some call this a version of ‘psychological safety’>.
If the organization doesn’t encourage accountable behavior than all it does is encourage employees to figure out a way of avoiding accountability.
All that said. Organization culture or not, people don’t need someone to define accountability or honoring commitments or any of that crap. People just need to assume accountability as part of who they are and how they act.
Why do I believe this? To me this conversation is like thinking that someone needs to teach people what integrity is.
You cannot teach. You either know, or understand, what integrity is or you don’t.
Holding yourself accountable is nothing more than following through with your own commitments and responsibilities. It’s doing what you know you should do when you should do it.
Look. Simplistic cause and effect explanations are for cowards. Business is rarely simple cause & effect and organizations are much more complex than simple cause & effect.
If you want a linear life … well … you are screwed.
We are responsible for our actions – all of them.
We are responsible for our inaction – all of them.
We are responsible for the repercussions of our actions & inactions – even the unintended results.
We are responsible for our thoughts and the behavior attached to them.
We are responsible for our mistakes.
Interestingly, an author, Linda Galindo, argues that the only true accountability is “personal accountability” and the only way to achieve it is to take responsibility for the outcomes of your choices, behaviors and actions – to the level of 85% of everything you touch or are associated with. I could debate the 85%, but as far as the intent – accountability beyond direct cause & effect activity – I couldn’t agree more.
This is a hard thought for many in business to not only grasp … but accept.
Why? In a world where it seems like collaboration is the standard operating procedure and tasks are delegated in a fragmented fashion <often under the guise of ‘specialists should work only on their specialty’> the actual outcome has been impacted by so many hands it is difficult to tie a result to one hand directly.
This means many business people want to avoid assuming responsibility for others actions or, maybe better said, they don’t want to be accountable for something they didn’t have 100% ownership of.
This is really silly thinking.
Uhm. But here is the really really hard part about accountability in business.
While you can’t hide behind simple cause and effect with regard to being accountable <you are also accountable for indirect consequences>, conversely, you cannot take credit for indirect successes.
I know … I know … you want to.
You are accountable for indirect negative consequences and not credited for indirect positive consequences.
Someone can give you the credit, but you cannot claim the credit.
Here is the good news.
People who have personal accountability are happier, more respected and more successful professionally. People who have consistent person accountability actually increase the likelihood that they WILL get some credit for indirect positive consequences. So if you can fight your way thru the doubts in being accountable in certain situations and fight your way thru systems which seem to relentlessly crucify you for mistakes you will end up in a better place – as a person and professionally. And you also get the satisfaction of laughing at all the assholes you see mumbling excuses, shifting responsibility, slyly pointing fingers and ultimately doing whatever they can to avoid any blame for the mistake/missed deadline/project gone wrong.
The ones who are quick to point the finger at anyone and anywhere but themselves.
They take accountability for anything that has any appearance of clear cause & effect all the while including anything that doesn’t have clear cause & effect <but will make them look more successful/competent>.
They are cowards.
Here is my true fear on this accountability thing.
People are beginning to blame the organizational culture, or society, for their individual behavior. It reminds me of something Reagan said years ago <which seems relevant today>:
“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”
While I could rant and get myself all wound up on business organizational culture … I won’t. I will suggest this is about personal responsibility and personal choice.
If you do not dare to do what is right … well … then … it is cowardly behavior.
“Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness.
I honestly don’t care about cowardly behavior, daring behavior or heroic behavior.
Doing what is right is just the right behavior and shouldn’t be celebrated — it should just be expected.
I believe no one should have to hold me accountable for my actions & responsibilities. No one but me should set whatever standard I set for myself.