It’s Not My Responsibility

When I need to facilitate a meeting, I arrive early to set up the meeting room to create a positive environment for the participants. When I leave, I make sure the room is tidy for the next facilitator. However, even if I use the same meeting room several times a week, each time I arrive, the room is in disarray. Why does this reoccur? The simple reason is: Because no ONE person is in charge.

When an organization does not take the time to identify and assign responsibility for every task, right down to details such as who is in charge of meeting room cleanliness or putting dishes into a dishwasher, it wastes time and creates confusion and frustration for its employees. The key to undoing this confusion is communication. Communicate and clarify roles and responsibilities for everything; and I do mean EVERYTHING. Here are some examples where time can be wasted when responsibilities are not clear.

  1. A task will not get done if two people think that the other is responsible for doing the task. To ensure there is clarity, check with the other person to confirm that he/she is responsible for the task. Better yet, management needs to communicate the responsibility and clarify this directly with the person(s) to whom they have delegated the task.
  2. If two people think they’re both responsible for a task, the task will get done twice (or perhaps not at all). As in example 1 above, communication is the key to ensuring that this timewaster does not occur.
  3. If one person is assigned a task, but others who need to involved in the task are not aware of this assignment, the others may not cooperate. Think about projects. If resources are assigned to projects, but those resources (employees) are not aware they are to complete tasks on the project, the tasks will not get done. Again, communication is key. Assemble all those who need to be involved in the work and communicate and delegate responsibilities. Then clarify directly with the resources that they understand and will undertake their responsibilities.
  4. What occurs when more than one person is in charge? Confusion and, perhaps, conflicting instructions. This is similar to example 2 except that in this case, the task may get done differently twice.

If the above situations sound familiar, then get clarity about your role and what responsibility and authority you have for a given task. Never assume that someone else is in charge or that you are in charge. Overlapping or confused responsibilities serve only to waste time.

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