Actualizing Accountability: What is Accountability and How Can We Resolve It?

Everyone makes mistakes. However, how does one take accountability in the proper way to have the best possible outcome and resolve their mistakes?

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As more and more notable figures are being brought out into the light for their various misdeeds, poor behavior, and problematic issues – the question is how are these people going to take accountability for their actions?

While most celebrities take responsibility for their actions in order to maintain spotlight, they truly aren’t the biggest difficulty. There lies a concern of how everyday people take accountability for their own indiscretions.

Throughout this article, we’re going to explore the concept of accountability, how it can be used to correct wrongs, and how one should go about taking accountability.

Accountability: What Is It?

In order to find ways to take accountability, we must first come to understand what accountability is at its core. Accountability is the concept – both in ethics as well in governance – of taking ownership in a circumstance where a wrong or injustice has been done and must be answered to.

Accountability is not punishment. In fact, the words as well as their definitions aren’t carbon copies of one another. However, accountability is what leads to consequences. It’s the stepping stone in the grand process of due diligence in regards to wrong being made right. ¹

Think of it like this – one cannot have consequence and punishment without accountability. Accountability leads the way of being able to handle said punitive actions taken following a poor behavior or a wrong done in malice.

Benefits of Accountability

When one takes accountability, they allow themselves not to be weighed down by distracting and potentially costly situations in which they have to cover for lies revolving around their illicit behaviors.

In corporate structures, for example, such activities are not only disruptive to business but can also be incredibly expensive. Companies have to devote resources to figuring out what exactly happened and, in turn, try to outmaneuver the lies and deception in order to finally figure out the truth. ²

Accountability allows for all of these evasive methods to be abandoned, leaving only the truth to be sorted out. Also there’s a mental health component to being honest and forthright when it comes to taking accountability.

Mental Health Benefits of Accountability

Without having the need to come up with lies, side-stories, and events that either never happened or are only slightly true, there isn’t a need to create fallacies in order to cover up the truth. With accountability comes acceptance and allows for both the accused and the accuser to finally get rid of the overbearing weight of having to either lie or be told lies. Accountability also allows for culpability as well as contrition towards the victims as well as the event. ³

Culpability ties closely with accountability, the definition of each usually feel interchangeable, but there is a stark difference. Culpability is the degree of blame – of how a certain situation is perceived by others – while accountability is the action taken towards the culpability of the situation at hand. ⁴ Contrition, on the other hand, is the weight of which the accused feels responsible and apologetic towards the situation or grievance in question.

One feeds into the other, the culpability of a situation and the accountability that is taken after the situation is over. This allows for those who were wronged to have justice while the person guilty of causing the situation gets consequences based on the culpability and how much accountability that person takes.

When someone takes accountability while understanding the culpability of the mistake or situation they created, they in turn are receiving an understanding of their behaviors and how their behavior impacts others. This owning of a mistake or a wrong being done allows for that person to finally take steps to right the wrong and thus make lasting changes to their behavior as well as their actions so that this sort of situation won’t be replicated in the future. ⁵

Actualizing Accountability

Now that we understand the concepts of culpability, contrition, and accountability, its time for us to see how accountability is actualized and how to take meaningful actions for accountability. We’re going to look at the steps to take accountability both in a personal sense as well in a business or professional climate.

Taking Accountability in a Personal Context

Although the steps of personal and professional accountability are similar, there are some differences relating to how the two systems of steps are taken. Also, more notably, the impact of taking personal accountability and the consequences of not taking personal responsibility differ from professional accountability.

Personal accountability in circumstances where a wrong has been committed in a relationship can have consequences such as losing said relationship or being cut out of activities involving those in the relationship. Add to that the degradation of trust and faith in someone and the inability to rely on said person, a lack of personal accountability can be more impactful than just losing opportunities or financial income as it occurs in professional work environments.

Essentially, there are five steps to personal accountability that can be taken to maximize responsibility. These are: ⁶

1.) Know Your Role

Understanding how your actions and behaviors have lead to this moment in which you have ended up making a mistake and being called out is important in order to take full accountability. Accountability cannot be fully realized until you have found a way to recognize how you have gotten to this point in the first place.

2.) Honesty is the Best Policy

Taking ownership isn’t just identifying the problem but also being honest and copping up to your part of said issue. Honesty, especially in close personal relationships, goes a long way in making reparations and starting the journey of healing.

If you skip this step then you’re only digging a deeper hole for yourself. The lack of honesty is maybe why you are in this position in the first place so its time to let the truth fly, even if it isn’t pleasant truths you are about to spill out. A vital part of healthy, long lasting relationships is a certain degree of trust and being able to openly communicate the truth. There can never be real healing if you aren’t able to be open and own up your mistakes.

The saying is true: the truth will actually set you free. And not free as in a lack of responsibility when you do something wrong, but free in the fact that you aren’t having to be held down by the weight of lies, inaccuracies, or half-truths.

3.) Acknowledge & Apologize

Simple apologies when you’re in the wrong isn’t going to cut it most of the times. Perhaps when you were younger you were able to skate by on poorly-constructed, absent apologies but as you grow older you are held to a different standard when it comes to acknowledging your mistakes.

Apologies, open and sincere, that acknowledge not only the mistake but the impact of said mistake shows to others that you have an understanding of your role in the mistake, you have regret for your actions, and you are willing to find ways to solve the problem.

These are all important steps toward accountability and if it is done with sincerity and a willingness to make things better, you have made a strong step forward into developing lasting changes in your more sacred of relationships.

4.) Make Meaningful & Lasting Changes

Meaningful change in one’s life doesn’t happen overnight. Meaningful change happens, most times, in the most small ways that might not be noticeable to the outside world but are extremely apparent for those who are closest to you.

Making changes doesn’t just alter how you act but can also affect how you think in the future – possibly having the impact of reflection on how you ended up in this position in the first place. When people take the time to reflect on not only their actions but who they are as a person – especially after being called out for a bad choice or wrong behavior – it can create lasting changes to their own self worth and their definition of self.

5.) Utilize Time Wisely

Procrastination is the death to creating change. Utilizing time isn’t just a practical skill in life but it can also be a way to show emotional strength and personal resolve, especially when its dealing with a matter related to personal relationships.

When you say you are going to make change, that doesn’t count as making change. You actually have to put in the work. Changes can take time. But when you are actively pursuing a life that is different from the one you have been leading that wound up hurting those you love the most, it shows that you are true to your word and a person of integrity.

Don’t sit on making changes that you promise to make in the first place. Procrastinating on personal affairs only leads down a road to more complications, more stress, and emptier relationships.

Taking Accountability in a Professional Context

Unfortunately, mistakes can occur in your professional life as well as your personal. When mistakes are made in your career, accountability is key to solving structural problems and sometimes even securing your own job. Accountability in the workplace is a bit different than it is in personal affairs.

Personal accountability often includes emotional complications and emotional solutions. However, in professional accountability, emotions are usually set aside for a set of executive protocols.

Essentially, there are four steps to resolving professional accountability. These are as follows: ⁷

1.) Acknowledging the Mistake

Acknowledging the mistake sounds simple but its actually more difficult than it seems. In order to really acknowledge a mistake, one must first understand their ability to make the mistake in the first place. Acknowledging is the first step as it shows that the accused is understanding in their ability to make the mistake as well as the mistake itself.

2.) Owning Up

Owning up might sound a lot like acknowledging the mistake, but the two are different. Acknowledging the problem is identifying what has occurred while owning up to your part in that mistake. This shows that you’re willing to fully engage in the process of accountability by taking on the responsibility.

3.) Figuring Ways to Solve the Mistake

First came the acknowledgment and understanding, now comes the work to correct the mistake. But how does one go about actually fixing an issue?

Figuring out how to solve the complication you have created is going to take initiative and some clear thinking. Taking initiative to think through how your going to solve the problem will take tenacity on your behalf as you will continuously have to reaffirm the fact that you have made the mistake while coming up with a solution that not only can help you but also remedy the situation.

Also, your solution should give relief to any victims that your mistake has created in the process. Tenacity will be vital to have follow through on this process as well as thinking outside your comfort zone to come up with a solution.

4.) Taking Action to Correct the Mistake

Taking action to solve the mistake doesn’t just mean solving the problem at hand, it means instilling behaviors and lasting changes to your own definition of self as the mistake could have altered how others see you and, in fact, how you see yourself. Changing long held habits isn’t an easy task and will require you to have follow through.

By solving the problem at hand and creating changes to behaviors in order to prevent that mistake from happening again, you will show others that you’re doing what was expected of you when you first decided to take accountability in the first place.

Final Word – Who Decides What Needs Accountability?

Accountability is vital to having a functional ability to take on personal and professional responsibility, especially in times of misfortune. Personal and professional responsibility can allow a lot of freedom as well as building trust for others. Accountability – along with culpability and contrition – creates a pathway for those to right their wrongs, give justice for those who were wronged, and allow for healing to take place.

Ultimately, many are going to ask themselves who decides what requires accountability and what doesn’t? This can be a difficult question to answer as all situations involving accountability are largely different. Not to mention, it’s usually determined by those involved in the actions.

In a professional setting, accountability can be made clear through rules and regulations from that private sector. However, in a personal setting, the rules aren’t always clear. Open communication is often a vital tool when it comes to accountability and resolving situations that require it.

Your Questions

Still have questions concerning accountability and how it impacts both professional and personal life?

We invite you to ask them in the comment’s section below. If you have any further advice to offer – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.

Reference Sources

¹ TechTarget: Accountability – A Working Definition

² US Governmental Office of Personnel Management: Accountability Can Have Positive Results

³ HarleyTherapy UK: Personal Accountability – Why You Need More of It, Now

⁴ BC Campus Open Educational Publishing: Moral Culpability versus Legal Culpability

⁵ Christian Salem: Why Accountability is Important?

⁶ MindTools: Developing Personal Accountability

⁷ FocusU: 4 Steps to Accountability in the Workplace

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