Who is most frequently blamed for mishaps? “I don’t know”. Right, that’s who it is.
That may sound silly, but the truth is most of us don’t look closely at the causes of problems or mishaps, either at work, or at school, or in the home. It is just much easier to blame the next guy. The idea of actually taking responsibility is usually the last thing on our mind.
Let me give you an example. Recently at work one of my colleagues and I were having a discussion about a specific task. The task at hand was making sure a new hire had a system available, and that all the pieces to the productivity puzzle would be lined up correctly so the new hire could succeed (and not have to bang her head against the wall).
My understanding of the task (provisioning a computer) was that my role only went so far and no further. It would have been easy to just pass the buck, and truthfully, that is what I started to do. I wasn’t living true to the values I want to hold and live out. I was not taking responsibility.
But my colleague is wise, and though determined, very much willing to work toward resolution of the potential conflict. Eventually we worked out a resolution that addressed the gap we had in a business process, and everyone was pleased. I didn’t look like a selfish jerk, but at the same time, I didn’t feel as if all the cause of the problem was being laid at my feet.
That’s the neat part about taking responsibility. When we own up to our part of a problem situation, we diffuse the tension. We give space for grace to be exhibited (there is always room for more grace in work relationships; selfishness has way too much sway). And in taking responsibility, at least our part of it, we can see conflict turn to creative answers to complex needs.
The shortest path to resolution is to take responsibility.
What about you? Have you had an experience at work, home or church/civic organization where no one took responsibility and a problem festered til it blew up? It doesn’t have to be that way.