Taking Ownership in the Workplace: a Comprehensive Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 20 September 2022

Published 30 November 2021

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.

There are certain traits that can serve you well wherever you work, such as good time management or interpersonal skills. Being able to confidently take ownership in the workplace is an important characteristic that gives you a deeper understanding of your role in the business. If you can take ownership of your duties and responsibilities at work, you are going to be able to contribute more effectively and impress your employers. In this article, we discuss what taking ownership at work means, its significance and ways that you can take ownership at work.

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What is taking ownership at work?

Taking ownership in the workplace means that you hold yourself accountable for the duties that you are responsible for. Regardless of whether things are going good or bad, the ability to take ownership at work means that you can take responsibility for your actions. Being able to do this effectively requires you to have a keen understanding of your role in the workplace and the overall mission of the company.

Related: How To Write an Action Plan To Help You Achieve Your Goals

What is the importance of taking ownership at work?

Being able to effectively take ownership in the workplace puts you in a better position to excel at your job. There are many benefits associated with it, including:

  • It encourages motivation: Taking responsibility at work empowers you with the confidence to speak with authority, ask meaningful questions and provide insights that are relevant to your duties. This is an excellent motivator as it gives you control and responsibility while you work.

  • It aligns your work with company goals: If you can confidently take ownership at work, you are more likely to stay in regular contact with higher-ups in the company. This, in turn, keeps you informed of the latest changes in the business, new assignments in the pipeline and the overall goals of the company. With this information, you can work towards the goals that help you and the company succeed.

  • It promotes healthy relationships at work: Being able to effectively take ownership allows you to consider your colleagues and their workload. This can foster a more healthy relationship with co-workers as you are more considerate of their needs.

  • It can advance your career: Taking on responsibility at work can help develop your skill sets and handle more responsibilities. This may impress your boss and hopefully prepare you for career advancement.

Related: How To Be Self-Motivated (With Steps, Tips and an Example)

How to take ownership at work

To learn how to take ownership at work, here are a few steps below you can take:

1. Think about why your employer hired you

Consider your employment from the perspective of your employer and why they hired you. This is a good framing exercise that lets you re-align yourself with your job duties. If your employment was a way to help improve sales, then you can take the time to evaluate how successful you are doing that job. From here, you can ask for feedback from superiors, come up with strategies to advance your career and ultimately improve your performance in the workplace.

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2. Be proactive while working

It's always better to be ahead of a problem rather than behind it in work, so take proactive measures to prepare yourself for your duties. This might involve using foresight to identify potential issues developing in the future or enquiring about extending a deadline in advance. Being proactive ensures that you remain accountable and successful in your duties.

Related: Key differences between reactive vs proactive behaviour

3. Look into managing up

The process of managing up is a relatively new one, but it can be incredibly helpful for employees and managers. In essence, managing up involves using the key traits of a good manager in your own work to help your manager. For example, you can try offering your manager positive feedback to help them develop their skills further. This is a great way to show that you are taking the initiative at work, gaining experience and improving how you manage your day-to-day tasks.

Related: Top Tips for Successful Career Progression

4. Find a balance when sharing ideas

Collaborating with others in the workplace is an excellent platform to express ideas and build confidence in your abilities. You want to be careful that you spend just as much time listening as you do talking, though. If you want to take ownership of your work, acknowledging other people's ideas and learning when to support them is an important part of that mental process.

Related: How To Build Confidence at Work

5. Speak with your employer about career goals

Outlining your future within a company can help you focus on your career and development, which encourages ownership in the workplace. Speak with your employer about what you are looking to get out of this career and discuss ways that you can get there. Speak honestly with them about your career goals, establish milestones and you can take ownership of reaching them.

6. Look for constructive feedback

Although you may receive feedback during an annual review, take ownership of your progress at work by asking for constructive feedback on a semi-regular basis. A good example would be to ask for feedback following the completion of a project. This allows you to take ownership of your advancement and take steps to improve how you work.

Related: The importance of feedback (with types and examples)

7. Try to be an active listener

There is a difference between hearing what someone says and actively listening to what they are saying. Try to practice active listening in the workplace to better take ownership of the needs of co-workers. Active listening requires you to take the time to absorb what others say to you - make eye contact, offer non-verbal cues such as nodding and ask questions related to the discussion. Doing this can grow your understanding of a situation or the needs of a colleague, which you can use to take steps to improve their performance.

Related: How to improve your active listening skills

8. Provide useful solutions

Taking responsibility at work often means providing answers to problems that develop in the workplace. Try to use initiative to solve a problem at work, rather than delegating the task to your superior. This lets you take full ownership of the problem, makes your boss's job easier and improves your chances of advancing in the company.

9. Aim for self-awareness

It's important that you understand your own strengths, weaknesses and personality so that you can take ownership of them at work. If you know that you have a short temper, for example, then you can take proactive steps to make sure you stay calm in stressful situations. You can even set goals to help you improve on your weaknesses. Ultimately, taking responsibility for your faults starts with being self-aware enough to identify them.

Related: A guide to self-awareness (with examples)

10. Be quick to ask questions

It's important that you take ownership of any confusion in the workplace early so that you can identify problems before they develop into bigger issues. This is a great way to show initiative and get in front of a problem before it grows into something harder to handle. You can also identify the overall purpose of a project by asking questions, which improves how you work and benefits the company at large.

11. Take on more responsibilities

Taking responsibility for additional tasks in the workplace can help you develop your skill set and improve your career prospects. For example, volunteering to be a team leader or work on additional projects gives you more experience, streamlines business operations and helps you reach career milestones more effectively.

12. Find learning opportunities

There is always room to learn more in your job, so identify learning opportunities in the workplace to take more ownership at work. This could be enrolling in a new training program or shadowing a superior for the day. You might be able to speak with your HR department about potential learning opportunities that you can sign up for.

13. Set milestones for yourself

Your employer may outline milestones for your progression, but take the initiative and come up with your own milestones, too. This encourages your development and lets you take ownership of your future by giving you control of what you are working towards. You can set your milestones in any way you, as long as you take ownership of reaching the goals, you can improve how you work.

14. Think about your future

Thinking about your future can empower you to take more ownership at work. This is similar to setting milestones for yourself, but it's more general. For example, thinking about your future might help you re-align where you are spending your time developing skills.

Related: How to think positively at work (in 11 steps)

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