Taking Responsibility

During President Obama’s inaugural address, these words struck a chord:

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly.”

While his words reference our responsibilities as U.S. and world citizens, they also speak broadly to us as human beings perhaps more sharply during this challenging economy.  We are not in “normal” times, however we define it; the world is not the same one any of us older than 10 was born into; what once worked no longer does…in many cases through no fault of our own. Nevertheless, we are stuck with the results, the fallout, the upside-down events.  We need to pull out the old adage:  “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” But I don’t think we have much “tough” anymore. We have expectations that no longer mirror the world we live in.

We’re in the midst of a crisis: many of you reading this won’t admit that you really want things to be just like they were. You want the comfort of how things used to be, how they’re supposed to be. You refuse to recognize that the changes are permanent and that unless you adapt, you’ll die. You’re living in a fantasy world playing a victim.

Maybe our comfort with how things have been for any number of years is what’s in our way of being “tough.” Many of you reading this work for employers who tell you what to do, how to do it, when to show up, when to leave, and what you’ll be paid.  And, unless you really mess up, your paycheck comes like clockwork…whether you show up or not, whether you show up 100% or 75% or even 30%. You get a paycheck. Man, how comfortable is that?

That’s a pretty accurate view of how a lot of you see work, and a 180 from what today’s business needs. We decry the loss of the old employment compact while we don’t really keep up our end of things.  Many workers spend their days looking for a better job, a better place, one that pays more and has more perks.  Few spend their days making the current job better, developing new efficiencies and greater productivity, or pulling co-workers together to create a better customer experience.

And why? “My boss won’t let me.” “I’m afraid to make suggestions.” “I’m not appreciated.”  “I just do what I’m told.” And my personal favorite: “It’s not my job.” Irresponsible, victim language if ever I’ve heard it.

Wake up, People…it IS your job. It’s your job to see where and how and how much you can contribute to make sure your employer is still in business this time next year, or even next month. It’s your responsibility to know what’s happening in your industry and among your company’s competitors. It’s up to you to investigate what will keep your customers not only happy, but returning. It’s up to you to do everything you can to get expenses down and revenues up. How you align with what your organization needs is your security–your only security. It’s also career ownership.

In our current economy, to think this responsibility falls to someone else–the leaders, your boss, anybody else–is foolhardy at best, and suicidal at least. You’re a victim as long as you shirk your responsibility; a contributing partner when you take it on.

Who are you choosing to be?

2 Responses

  1. Janine, A worthwhile message for all of us. Going beyond the job description and investing our time and money in growing ourselves as an employee, rather than waiting for the company to do it, produces results. I’ve seen coworkers turn down a travel and registration stipend because all meals and incidentals weren’t also covered. If we were home, we would still have to eat and drive to the job. Offering to pay for a desired training when budgets are tight helps build skills and relationships which are worth far more than the price of admission.

  2. Thanks, Donna, for providing great examples of being responsible and investing in actions that benefit both the individual and the organization.


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