What is the difference between Accountability & Responsibility?
While there can only ever be a single person who is ‘Accountable’, multiple parties can be ‘Responsible’. Additionally, the ‘Accountable’ person may also be the one actually ‘Responsble’ for completion of that task or activity.
There are a couple of everyday examples of ‘Accountability’ versus ‘Responsibility’ that we can use to help us understand the difference.
The first relates to Politicians.
Ministers whose Departments have messed up normally try to hang on until the last moment but eventually their ‘Accountability’ forces them out. while those actually ‘Responsible’ for what’s gone wrong remain employed.
You’ll recognise the expression – if it happened on your watch, then you’re to blame.
The accountable person is whose head will roll!
The second example is even more common – it’s the Football Manager. It seems there’s a casualty every week where the Manager is the ‘fall guy’, forced to resign when the players themselves ‘responsible’ for playing and winning games have failed to perform.
Back to normal life, have you ever been to a party or celebration and someone forgot to do something really important – order the wine, sort the taxi, bring the rings!!!! And when everyone complains they might say – ‘I didn’t realise it was my job?’!!
In this case, ideally there would have been someone in charge overall i.e. ‘Accountable’, who would have clarified everyone’s roles and responsibilities and tasks. But this is the bit that often doesn’t happen both in and outside of work and causes the issues already mentioned.