Performance management principles: giving and accepting responsibility in the workplace

Responsibility comes in many forms. Whether you have responsibility, take responsibility, or give responsibility, how does all of this factor into both team and individual performance?

To understand its impact, we first need to investigate the different types of responsibility in the workplace.

  • Taking responsibility and ownership
  • Giving responsibility to others
  • Gaining responsibility in your role

Let’s start with taking responsibility

Young woman working alone at office desk planning - taking responsibility

What does it mean to take responsibility?

An article in the Harvard Business Review discusses the idea that taking responsibility starts with understanding that more often than not, help isn’t coming.

While on the surface this may seem like a bleak prospect, it’s more about being proactive, anticipating bumps in the road, and taking the initiative to be the person to solve a particular problem. In this sense, taking responsibility isn’t the same as taking blame, but it’s also not about taking the glory.

It is about owning the process of getting from A to B, even, or perhaps especially, if there are unexpected turns along the way.

What impact does taking responsibility have on professional development?

Taking responsibility and ownership of work, problem solving, and delivering solutions is a vital part of both personal and career development. It’s also a great sign that someone in your team or organisation has great potential for career development and leadership in the future.

As we looked into in our soft skill series, taking initiative for problem solving is an essential skill in the workplace. Beyond problem solving, taking ownership of projects or individual tasks can be a great motivator and a strong indicator of how engaged your employees are in their careers and your organisation.

Giving responsibility

Businesswoman delegating to her colleagues in office environment - giving responsibility

What is the importance of giving responsibility?

Delegating is a hugely important part of leadership. There are a number of reasons to delegate tasks or projects to a wider team including managing your own workload, pushing the development of an employee, and testing out group dynamics.

How does giving responsibility factor into performance?

In the same way that taking responsibility can be a great display of potential and a strong motivator for your employees, giving them additional responsibility can do the same thing. However, it is important to allow them the breathing space to adapt to their new responsibilities and make sure they aren’t overloaded.

For those at a higher level, tasking newly promoted or first-time people managers with delegating and giving responsibility to others can be a great way to establish how well they have adapted to their position. This can in turn form a crucial part of their ongoing performance management.

Gaining responsibility

Cartoon of man with multiple arms juggling a range of responsibilities at his desk

What are the impacts of gaining responsibility?

There are two very distinct ways to look at this, and the chances are many of us will have felt and seen others experience both sides. On one hand, being handed additional responsibilities can be seen as a fantastic challenge, and opportunity to develop. On the other, it can also be seen as a burden or being stretched too thin.

How can we encourage a positive response to gaining responsibility?

If the additional responsibilities come from outside of ourselves, there can be a feeling of a loss of control over our working lives, especially if pressure is mounting up. However, ensuring this additional responsibility fits into employees’ current working lives and schedules shows them that you care about their development and the opportunities additional responsibility represents.

It’s a fine balance, but approached in the right way, giving and gaining responsibility in the workplace really can work for everyone.

Conclusion

Responsibility in the workplace is perhaps an unexpected pillar of ongoing performance management. It impacts everyone involved in the process, from the delegator to the employee with potential who volunteers to spearhead a new project. But when it comes to investing in the long term performance of your team, few things are more important than the well-being of your employees, and helping them to both manage their workloads and manage their work-life balance.

Want to develop and employees' ability to give, take, or accept responsibility? Take a look at our performance management planning template.

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