Accountability: Your Fault vs. Your Responsibility

In a workplace, the words fault and responsibility are often made interchangeable. This is especially true in a toxic work setting.

In a space where problems constantly arise, you make it a point to not put any additional ones on your plate.

But it is especially in these situations that we need to be able to differentiate between the two. In order to not add to the toxicity of the space, we need to be a part of the solution.

Before I continue, I want to emphasize that I am in no way condoning the toxicity of a workplace. If it’s truly a terrible experience for you, go; quit. No amount of compensation–in the form of salary or reputation–is worth the risk of your sanity.

That being said, the position that you are currently in, if you choose to stay, is voluntary. What you have made is a commitment, not only to a company and to yourself, but also to your team.

Before learning and analyzing the way you conduct your behavior in the workplace, we should first look into our own selves. In an Instagram story that has gone viral, Will Smith talks about the role of fault and responsibility in our own lives.

In this story, he explains that sometimes, terrible things happen to us, and they are in no way our fault. This is especially true in childhood. But the fact that these things aren’t our fault doesn’t mean that they are not our responsibility. Only we have the capacity to live with our lives. Only we have the capability to cope and to better ourselves despite our tragedies.

Things that happen to us may not be our fault, but moving forward with these emotional baggage, in the best way possible, is our responsibility.

“The road to power is in taking responsibility.

Your heart, your life, your happiness, is your responsibility,

and your responsibility alone.”

Will Smith

In a workplace setting, the importance of differentiating between the two lies in your next step as a teammate when things are going haywire. If you remain an onlooker, and focus only on yourself saying, “She did that. It wasn’t my fault.” Then your fault lies in simply being an onlooker when your team is drowning in quicksand.

This is your team. No matter who you’re pointing to, in the end, you’re all sinking together.

Upon accepting a position, the commitment you’re making isn’t to a list of personal tasks that you have to check off every day. What’s you’re committing to is a role–a role in a team, and a role in the company.

Your teammate’s fault may not be yours, but it is your responsibility, the entire team’s really, to see your project and goals through.

This is the true mark of an emerging leader, understanding that the response to fault is constructive criticism, and to responsibility, action.

As author of the bestselling The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Mark Manson said, “Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense.”

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