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What It Means to Be Responsible & Accountable in the Workplace

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Responsibility and accountability are both attributes that can help you in essentially any career. Most managers also appreciate when their employees possess these soft skills. The way in which you demonstrate responsibility and accountability can vary, though, based on your organization, working relationships and level of interaction with clients.

Internal Responsibility

One of the best ways to examine workplace responsibility and accountability is to compare applications both inside the company and in customer or public interactions. Internal responsibility means that you complete your work activities on time and without repeated requests from a manager. Being responsible also means that you do the little things in your job even when nobody is watching. A responsible employee makes efforts to minimize wasted supplies and resources to help the company save money, for instance.

External Responsibility

Workplace responsibility has a similar premise externally, but demonstrating responsibility is distinct when dealing with customers and the community. A responsible employee wouldn't sell a customer a product or service knowing that it is a waste of money for him. A responsible garbage service provider doesn't leave a mess of debris laying behind at a home or business after a pick-up. Responsible company leaders make decisions knowing whether company actions will have any negative effects on the public.

Internal Accountability

Responsibility and accountability are very closely related. A technical definition of accountability is that it is a willingness to take on responsibility. Often, though, workplace accountability means that you take ownership for the results of your actions, for better or worse. A warehouse manager may accept the responsibility to rush an order at the request of a sales representative. He demonstrates accountability when he actually follows through on this commitment and makes it happen. Accountability is also used to describe a situation when a worker owns up to a mistake and takes measures to fix it.

External Accountability

From an external standpoint, accountability generally means that you take responsibility to ensure that a customer or client has a good experience. Sales and service workers, for instance, often have accountability to deliver a positive product or service experience for a customer. If you have accountability as a sales rep, you work diligently to fix any problems that impede customer satisfaction. You don't pass the buck to service reps or other employees.


Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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