Most people think that responsibility is an important characteristic for "good" people to have, but few people ever analyze their own performance in this virtue. This is, in part, due to most people's predilection of seeing themselves in the best light possible (of course, few have problems with noting all the awful, irresponsible people that are screwing up their lives). Taking responsibility, where you have it, is essential to being good in business and your overseers will want to see whatever vision of this virtue they have inside of you.

Often times people see responsibility as being willing to admit to your mistakes, and that is an important first step. Some people will disregard such admissions or apologies from others, but this humility is sorely missed when you deal with someone who refuses to do this basic thing! In fact, if you blame the situation or others whenever something goes wrong then you will begin to build a very bad image with your superiors. You need to take credit for the bad things you do as well as the good ones, and when a problem comes up you should focus more on how you will fix it rather than why or how it happened (although the reasons might need to be brought up for future prevention).

After you are willing to see your own failures and admit them to others, then you need to take an active role in making them right again. I'm sure that most employers would rather you didn't make any mistakes to begin with, but if they have any experience in reality then they will forgive you the infrequent error if you take the initiative to fix the fallout or at least do damage control. If you make a point to do this then those mistakes you do make won't be such a jarring and lingering memory in their minds.

The trick to this virtue is simply a reduction in pride (and perhaps fear) and the skills necessary to fix the ramifications for your mistakes. In other words, this is more of a personal character issue and how good you are at your job rather than a simple bad habit to overcome. Fortunately for those of you struggling with this, even if you are not naturally one with a strong sense of responsibility you can develop that overtime just by doing what a responsible person would do. Your actions eventually establish who you are.

Down below are some activities that may help you work on taking responsibility if you are having trouble on your own.


  • Make a List of Your Duties: You might not be all that consciously aware of everything that you are supposed to be doing. Even if this seems like a silly activity to you, doing this will have a positive psychological benefit. You may also realize that you've been neglecting something quite repeatedly.
  • Become Better at Self-Reflection: You likely don't know how often you shift blame—or even notice the times you really are directly responsible for failure, sometimes. Take care to think about and reflect on your daily successes and failures; you may want to keep a "responsibility journal" of sorts. Note the things that went wrong throughout the day and carefully ponder what you could have done to have prevented the problem. Next, reflect on how well you responded to the trouble. Doing this alone might motivate you to take more responsibility.
  • Be Fully Open for a Set Period of Time: It's likely you downplay some of your failures—it's a natural survival mechanism. Set a period of time, about a week, where you will totally 'fess up to every mistake you make. Consciously try to fully divulge your full involvement in failures (note: don't say anything that will get you fired... but also don't do anything that will get you fired!). Much of our behavior is habit, and doing this will help you learn more about yourself and the results of your actions so you can make a goal based on the outcome.
  • Keep a Tally: This may be a mental tally (see the first activity on self-reflection), but note how you respond to each problem in your area of responsibility. Note how often you work to fix the problem, and how often you try to let it slide (even if it isn't your fault). Then note how often you fix problems that you cause in other domains (of course, if the IT guy tells you to stop fiddling with your computer for a while, you probably should just listen).
  • Work on Perseverance: You may simply fail to fix an error simply because it seemed too difficult to do so. Working on this virtue can help you stick through with it and not be so liable to give up and quit—which is often the cause of failing to live up to responsibilities anyway. Optimism may also help in this regard.

Your Record

Whenever you fail to fulfill a responsibility of yours, mark yourself at "fault". Whenever you don't try your darndest to fix a problem you caused or one that was under your umbrella of responsibility, then mark yourself at fault. Make goals using the activities above or from your own experience. If you fail to go through with an activity or reach a goal, then mark yourself at fault.


It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.

Josiah Charles Stamp, President of the Bank of England in the 1920's

Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German Playwright, Novelist, and Poet

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Mahatma Ghandi, Renown Indian Philosopher and Nonviolent Protestor

Golden Mean

Irresponsibility, immaturity

Recommended Reading

Respect and Responsibility: A Great Way to Self-Fulfillment — by Dietmar H Voitel

A Great Way to Self-Fulfillment: This book preaches that if you react positively to problems and work on earning respect and fulfilling your responsibility, then life-fulfillment will be within grasp.

Living an Extraordinary Life — by Robert White

Written by an author who is considered by some to be a pioneer in the personal growth business, this book is all about living a good and fulfilling life. While it doesn't focus solely on responsibility, that virtue is one of the three ingredients that he considers essential for an extraordinary life.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility. Peter Drucker