Being Responsible, Especially for Your Actions

Responsible individuals seriously take on either assumed, inherited, or given (explicitly allocated) responsibility to accomplish a task, or to achieve broader goals or outcomes. They take responsibility for both their actions and the outcomes, whether these actions are positive or negative. One must learn to be responsible both in personal and professional life in order to succeed.

Given (explicitly allocated) Responsibility

Suppose that your parents asked you to watch your little sibling for few minutes, and that you accepted the responsibility given to you by your parents.

Assumed Responsibility

Suppose that you asked your parents for a rabbit for your birthday. Your parents warned you that it would come with great responsibility, because you must feed, clean, and take care of a rabbit. You insisted to your parents that you would take care of the rabbit, and as a result, you received the gift and took on the responsibility.

Responsibility for Actions and Outcomes

Suppose that you were playing with your sibling in your backyard. You pushed your sibling for fun, and your sibling fell to the ground and got hurt. Your parents asked you what happened. As a child, you may have told your parents that you were sorry that you pushed her, and that you were willing to take responsibility for your actions and the outcome. If you instead said that she slipped and fell on her own, or that you did not know how she fell to the ground, you did not take responsibility for your actions or their outcome.

This may seem like a childish behavior that often occurs while growing up, and you may think that children may grow out of this kind of behavior as they become older. Children may grow out of it or not depending on the environment in which they are growing up. The family is a space for learning about appropriate behavior, and parents create an environment where children can learn how to be responsible for their actions. In a family space where punishment (both physical and mental) occurs as a result of negative (unacceptable) outcomes, children may not learn to be responsible for their actions because of their fear of punishment.

I strongly believe that behavior is learned while we are growing up, and that childhood behavior comprises the building blocks (foundation) of adult behavior.

Responsible behavior is critical for success in both personal and professional life. In personal life, if parents do not take on the responsibility of raising their own children, or if they do not teach them to be responsible or to take responsibility for the outcomes of their actions, the children may not learn responsible behavior. The social environment surrounding the children also influences the children behavior. If the children are not encouraged in the social environment to be responsible or to take responsibility for the outcomes of their actions, the children may not learn responsible behavior. In such cases, the future of the children can be destroyed.

In professional life, the workplace is a space for learning responsible behavior. Managers should create an environment where employees can learn to be responsible for their tasks and their actions. Businesses invest a lot of resources into training employees, adopting and implementing new technology, maintaining quality control, and ensuring that there are other checks and balances for producing and delivering quality products and services. They may still encounter problems with the quality of products and services in the marketplace, but this may largely be because they are not focusing on the responsible behavior of both the employees and the managers.

For example, I used to go to a globally-recognized fast food chain and ask for a breakfast sandwich without meat, and I once received the sandwich with meat three times in a row. In another case, I asked for a 90-day supply of medicine from the pharmacy, and received a 30-day supply on two occasions instead. On a different occasion, I ordered a screen protector for my phone online and received one designed for a different model of phone instead. The question that arises is: What causes these errors in business practice? These errors are the result of the human factor (people) involvement in business, and more specifically, the lack of responsible behavior by the people involved in business. Such a lack of responsibility impacts the quality of products or services delivered, and the competitive advantage of a company in the marketplace.

We could improve our quality of life if we learn and adapt to the conditions that foster responsible behavior. Responsible behavior for each individual is comprised of personally responsible behavior, professionally responsible behavior, socially responsible behavior, and legally responsible behavior. Personally responsible behavior occurs within the family or personal life, professionally responsible behavior occurs in work or professional life, socially responsibility behavior arises in social life, and legally responsible behavior occurs in personal, social, and professional life.

We could improve the quality of our work lives if we encourage both management and employees to learn and adapt to the conditions that foster responsible behavior in the workplace. Such circumstances will increase productivity, ensure the quality of products or services, and reduce errors in business practice.

People who are lazy, cowardly, subject to behavioral problems, or addicted to certain substances or behaviors do not take responsibility seriously, and do not take responsibility for their own actions.

The following is a basic self-test for determining the understanding of the level of responsibility in your or someone else behavior. Use a scale of 1 to 5 (highest) for each question and rate each individual’s level of responsibility in the five scenarios (statements) given below.

  1. John and Julie blame their young children for wasting their hard work on raising them, because instead of being able to finish college, the children ended up having more problems in both their personal and work lives.
  2. Jamie is upset because her husband throws soda cans in regular trash cans rather than in the recycle bin.
  3. Jean bumps a parked car by opening her car door in the parking lot. No one was in the parking lot, so she left without saying anything to anyone.
  4. Joan is frustrated with employees in her department because they call her every time a customer has any questions. She told them not to call her anymore, and to resolve the customer problems on their own.
  5. Jerry loves drinking and dancing on the weekends, and he always invites friends that are unwilling to drink and drive to ride with him to the clubs.

Add the scores of the five questions, and use the responsibility score chart below to determine the understanding of the level of your responsibility behavior or someone else responsibility behavior. If the total includes a fraction, round the number (for example: 10.4 to 10; 10.5 to 11; 18.4 to 18; and 18.5 to 19) before adding them.

A score between 1 – 10 indicates a low level of understanding of responsible behavior, between 11 – 18 indicates a high level of understanding of responsible behavior, and between 19 – 25 indicates a moderate level of understanding of responsible behavior.

© 2017 Mohammed R. Ahmed
Ahmed, M.R. (2017). Being Responsible, Especially for Your Actions.
Published in Linkedin