During a discussion in one of my classes, a student made the comment that in a team environment it is important to be accountable. While that sounds good, technically it’s not correct – an individual needs to BE RESPONSIBLE.

re·spon·si·ble /rəˈspänsəb(ə)l/
:having an obligation to do something as part of one’s job or role

In my Organizations 101 post, I talk about the importance of responsibility and accountability specifically to organizational structure – any organization i.e. team, department, family, etc. Where responsibility is the task/duty an individual takes on as an organizational member, accountability is the tie or connection back to others.

ac·count·a·ble /əˈkoun(t)əb(ə)l/
:subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something

So technically someone IS RESPONSIBLE and then HELD ACCOUNTABLE for that responsibility. We should never say that someone is accountable or by the same argument, held responsible. It’s an important distinction.

Sure, an individual can give themselves a duty or goal, and hold themselves accountable. When I make a goal to lose weight by not eating junk food after 9pm, it’s up to me to hold myself accountable. But I’m talking specifically about these concepts within an organization – when an individual takes on duties as part of their organizational responsibilities.

Organizational structure is a direct result of clear responsibility and accountability back to others in the organization. Both need to be in place. If they aren’t – the result is chaos.

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