Personal responsibility: importance, attributes and benefits

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 20 September 2022

Published 28 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're interested in pursuing success at work, it can be helpful to develop responsibility. While this concept includes speaking honestly and fulfilling commitments, it also covers the making of and learning from mistakes. Being responsible can also improve your work relationships, enhance your professional performance and boost your well-being at work. In this article, we explain why personal responsibility is important, list five ways to develop it, review its key attributes and list the benefits of being responsible at work.

Why is personal responsibility important at work?

One of the most important aspects of a healthy work environment is an atmosphere of personal responsibility. Workplaces that value responsibility often offer team members autonomy in their day-to-day tasks. They know they can ask for help from their team. In the event that an issue arises, they also feel supported, which may help them solve problems more quickly than they might in a different type of work environment.

Employees with a strong sense of responsibility are likely to show more commitment to their organisation, feel more secure in their roles and have greater job satisfaction. When you accept responsibility at work, you may consider the outcome of events to be in your control. This can empower you to make decisions more effectively. It can also provide you with more opportunities for personal growth and professional development. Additionally, a sense of responsibility in your work can help you realise that every mistake is an opportunity to learn.

Related: What are personal and professional values and why are they important?

5 ways to develop personal responsibility

There are many ways in which you can learn to be more personally responsible. Here are five examples:

1. Identify personal strengths and weaknesses

The first step to developing responsibility at work is to be honest about where you are now. You can identify your strengths and weaknesses by looking at areas where you feel you take enough responsibility and areas where you could take more. You may also wish to ask for feedback from people you trust. You can then use this information to develop a plan for working on your weaknesses and building on your strengths. There are always areas to improve, so try this as the first step in developing a greater sense of responsibility.

2. Set goals and create a plan to improve yourself

People who set goals and make plans to achieve them often have a greater chance of success at work. Goals are important because they give direction and structure to your efforts, keep you accountable for your actions and help you stay on track for long-term success. If you can take more responsibility in an area, try setting yourself a goal to do so. Then maintain focus on that goal until you achieve it.

3. Learn from your mistakes

Mistakes are inevitable, but you can learn from them and make improvements to your behaviour in the future. A developed sense of responsibility encourages you to understand that everyone makes mistakes and what's important is how you address them. Learning from your mistakes, rather than attempting to avoid them, can often cause a change to happen. For example, if you set a goal and don't accomplish it within the timeline you planned, you can use that understanding to set more realistic goals in the future. Understanding your capabilities more deeply can also help you achieve more success at work.

Related: Taking Ownership in the Workplace

4. Follow through on commitments

Taking responsibility means that when you make a commitment to someone, you fulfil it to the best of your abilities. Following through with commitments demonstrates your integrity and trustworthiness and helps you feel confident in yourself. It's important to note that being aware of your capabilities regarding time and energy is key to successfully following through on commitments. This can ensure that you take on only as much as you can handle, meet deadlines and deliver as you have agreed.

5. Develop excellent communication skills

A professional with effective communication skills can convey their thoughts, feelings and instructions more clearly to others. This can help you express how and why something has happened, which may help to reduce its impact. Communication includes both verbal or written forms of expression and nonverbal communication like body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. A person with efficient communication skills may also make meaningful connections with people and may even influence the decisions they make at work.

Related: The difference between responsibility vs. accountability at work

What are the key attributes of a highly responsible person?

There are many attributes that make up a highly responsible person, such as some of the following qualities:

Self-awareness

This is one of the most important traits that you can develop and is what may set you apart from others. The first step in self-awareness is to understand that you have different strengths and weaknesses. With this knowledge, you can become more aware of which situations you may be more likely to perform well in.

Related: What is a cognitive bias and what are its different types?

Courage

It takes courage to own up to a mistake, especially when you know it may affect your team or possibly a client's experience. The short-term discomfort of owning up to a mistake might help to motivate you to improve your skills. It also shows your team that you're honest and willing to take responsibility for your actions and learn from your mistakes.

Honesty

Honesty requires courage and confidence. It's often easier to hide a mistake than speak up about it and take ownership. It's about not just telling the truth but also handling the consequences. Being open about what you've done gives you the opportunity to grow and develop and while maintaining your integrity.

Authenticity

Authenticity refers to when the actions you take and personality you present at work are genuine. You can do this by not worrying about the judgement of others, admitting when you make a mistake and accepting when you're wrong. Authenticity also involves being honest about the flaws in your character rather than hiding them. You can demonstrate your authenticity at work by noting your flaws and discussing with your colleagues or supervisor how you plan to improve.

Diligence

This means taking care in dealing with all matters, whether or not they appear important. To be diligent doesn't always require a tremendous effort, but it requires you to be consistent with your attention. Being diligent every day requires self-discipline, awareness and the desire to give your full attention to whatever you're doing.

Commitment

Commitment to your role or to a specific task shows that you care about what you're doing and its outcome. It also shows you're invested in the success of the business. When you're committed to something, you can address mistakes or problems that arise more swiftly because your attention is on the outcome rather than the problem that you have.

Decision-making skills

The ability to make good decisions is a key attribute for someone who takes responsibility. When there's a problem to handle, you could resolve it by making a decision quickly. If you can make important decisions without procrastinating, this helps you take ownership of a task or the duties that you have at work.

Accountability

Holding yourself accountable for something means that you accept full responsibility for the outcome and success of any given task. This is arguably one of the most important elements of being a highly responsible person. By being accountable, you're showing that you believe in yourself and your ability to deliver on your promises.

Related: How to mindfully improve your personal development

What are the benefits of being responsible at work?

There are several benefits of being responsible at work. People who do this could be more successful as they may have better relationships with their colleagues, achieve higher performance results and be more likely to progress within their organisation. They're also likely to be more productive, more creative and less stressed because they're comfortable and confident in their role. It's also possible that more responsible people may feel more valued and have a high level of self-esteem.

When you take responsibility in your professional life, you recognise that whatever issues exist in your work are yours to deal with. This alone empowers you and means that you can challenge yourself to do better. It may also help you succeed in not only your current role but also future roles so you can grow further and expand your experience and skill set.

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