Deflecting Responsibility

Taking responsibility takes courage. As leaders, holding ourselves and others accountable can be difficult.

It seems we have developed a series of strategies to deflect responsibility. Here are 7 popular strategies I have observed in business meetings. I have seen each of these used in meetings when it’s painful to talk about the reality of issues or results.

  1. Ignore the issue and hope it goes away.
  2. Quickly fall on the sword and hope for the sympathy vote.
  3. Ingratiate yourself with the most senior person.
  4. Find someone worse off than you and move the focus onto their issue.
  5. Run out of time and move on to the next issue on the agenda (or change the subject).
  6. Justify any behaviour/results with pseudo-valid reasons.
  7. Blame someone/something else.

Watch out for these attempts to deflect responsibility. Long term, it’s better to accept responsibility, learn what needs to be learnt, and move on. Even if it hurts in the short term.

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2 Responses to “Deflecting Responsibility”


  1. 1 James July 15, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Bernie, an interesting rejoinder to your investing in leadership peice. I have witnessed all but #2 in recent times – a pity given the high quality of thinking around here, and frustrating to see how it wickedly stifles the synergies this place needs. Indeed it is oft destructive when the underlings despair and disparage. A new and welcome focus on leadership (is that #3?!) is raising the profile. Self interest and office politics however are like coating leadership elements such as courage, and the trust and respect it begets, in teflon – makes it mighty hard for those that could and should to even grasp the leaderhip concept, let alone apply it. An intersting challenge.

  2. 2 jeremy July 20, 2008 at 12:57 am

    Bernie .. hava look at http://gimblettandpillock.blogspot.com/ which is a start from Friday’s conversation


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