The Positive Impact of Accepting Responsibility

Sorry I’m late, the traffic was shocking

The incident happened because Jill didn’t use her common sense and follow procedure

I haven’t been able to complete this project as I’m still waiting on Joe to provide feedback

Thanks, now I’m going to be late because you’re not ready

You don’t help enough, that’s why this place looks so untidy

These are all examples of how we can avoid our contribution to a situation and transfer the cause to someone or something else.  Whilst it might be easier to blame someone/something else than to accept responsibility, it does risk credibility and relationship conflict.

No one wins in the game of blame.  Physician and researcher, Dr. Neil Farber suggests that chronic blaming is a form emotional abuse that can result in the blamee feeling responsible for things beyond their control and impact negatively on their self-esteem.

Research carried out by Nathanael J. Fast and, Larissa Z. Tiedens indicates that organisations where blame is the norm, group members are likely to be less creative and perform poorly.  The research also shows that bad behaviour such as blame can spread like wildfire through an organisation, significantly impacting the workplace culture.

The alternative to blame is to take responsibility and ownership of your actions, reactions, thoughts, and behaviours.  It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and to an extent exposing yourself.

The impact of accepting responsibility is extraordinary and positive compared to the transfer of blame.

It was the usual morning rush in our household, I had to be out of the house by a certain time.  I was frantic trying to tidy up and make sure everything was spick n span before I left the house.  The children were ready and my 11-year-old came in to help me make my bed.  Being meticulous, I like the bed to be made a certain way.  The doona wasn’t conforming and I was already flustered.  I looked up at my daughter who was on the other side of the bed trying to straighten the doona out.  “Just leave it, you’re making it worse”. BOOM! An act of blame.  She just looked at me perplexed.  Wow, I just projected my frustration onto my daughter.  Basically, this was a case of ‘I can’t handle this feeling of frustration, so I’m going to take it away by giving it to someone else’.   I realised it immediately.  “Actually, the doona is around the wrong way.  It’s not at all your fault, I just dumped that on you because I couldn’t work out how to fix the problem quick enough. I’m really sorry”.  Her facial expression immediately changed from a deer in headlights look to a nice smile suggesting forgiveness.  It upset me to think that in that moment of stress I could have left her with that pain gainer feeling.

This incident gave me great insight to the positive impact of accepting responsibility.

Can you think of a time where you have been the blamer or blamee? How were you feeling at the time?  How could the situation have been handled better?  What impact did this situation have on you?

To avoid the nasty habit of blame, we need to alter our reaction when a problem arises:

  1. Accept the problem exists – in the heat of the moment, when a problem arises, take a moment to identify and accept the problem exists
  2. Resist temptation to blame – blame is the fastest human reflex. Resist the temptation to transfer the cause of the problem to someone/something else.
  3. Drop your guard – We are human, we don’t need to be on our A-Game all the time.  Recognise your contribution to the problem and step out of self-protection comfort zone.
  4. Own the problem – own your contribution to the problem and accept that your acts or omissions might be the core contributing factor


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Amy Towers

Risk Insight & Strategy


Amy Towers, Founder and Director of Risk Collective

Amy Towers is obsessed with setting you free when it comes to your work health and safety obligations. A risk expert with more than 10 years’ experience working as a Health and Safety Specialist and Consultant, Amy enjoys solving complex business problems and is truly passionate about guiding, directing and protecting you and your business against health and safety risks.

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