Monday, April 4, 2011

Personal responsi-what?

The concept of personal responsibility seems to have somehow been grossly distorted if not completely lost. No one wants to take responsibility for anything anymore whether it be the empty toilet paper roll that was not replaced or global warming. People will go to crazy lengths just not to own up to the bad things they have done, sometimes going so far as to simply deny the problem actually exists.

This is a problem that starts very young.
In my family there is an event known as the infamous "Not me" cake incident.
I was about 15, my brother is a year older than me, and our sister is about 5 years younger so she was probably about 10 at the time. My mother had gone to the store and when she returned home she found that her clean kitchen counters were covered in cake crumbs. Someone in her absence had eaten the last piece of cake and left a mess.
Intending on telling us to clean up after ourselves, she summoned all three of us down to the kitchen and inquired as to who had eaten the last piece of cake. Now of course we were all immediately aware that the perpetrator was going to be in some form of trouble, so of course none of us were dumb enough to fess up. My mother hates nothing more than a liar, so after all three of us said "Not me." as our response, she got a little angry.

Twenty minutes later as we were sitting in our rooms, all three now grounded until the deceptive party stepped forward, my brother came in demanding to know if I was the one who did it. Now I was really the obvious choice because I was known in the family as the food sneaker, but for once it really was not me. I had been on the computer the entire time. My brother is not much of a sweets person, or really an eater for that matter, and so he really was obviously not the one who had done it. That just left our sister.
We confronted her, but of course she swore it was not her. We did not buy it. So we went to mom and told her that it was our sister. Of course if mom hates a liar, the thing that comes next in line of things she hates is a snitch. At this point though we did not care. We were teenagers, we had places to be and things to do, we had no time to be grounded. So we snitched as fast as we could, but mom was not going to bend. She insisted our sister had to confess of her own power (which meant my brother and I could not pin her to the floor and hit her until she admitted it).

We ended up only being grounded a few days before the incident mostly blew over. Of course for years my mother has brought up the cake incident for any reason she could think of. It turned into one of those funny embarrassing stories about her children.
In the end it took 15 years of mom harping on my sister before she finally admitted that she was indeed the cake crumb culprit. To which my mother simply replied "Use a plate and clean up after yourself."

I know cake crumbs and a few days of teenage freedom lost is a fairly light example of failed personal responsibility, but it does demonstrate the deceptiveness and unaccountability we take on from a very early age. She was 10 for crying out loud. They were cake crumbs. Yet still she endured 15 years of chiding and lies over it.

Of course there is another connective point here that almost bothers me more than people not owning up to what they have done, and that is improper placement of blame. When you place blame on a large group and it was only the fault of a few that is simply not fair. Even if  it is the majority in the wrong and only a few in the right, a blanket of blame is just not right.

If you want to yell at a group for poor performance do not place the people into that session who are actually doing their job well, or even above expectations. Pull them out of it, or at least take them aside and acknowledge that they are not actually part of the problem. If you are going to reprimand people for poor behavior make sure you thank those who actually were well behaved for their effort. The likelihood that you were the only bright shining example is really probably slim to none.

Just as much as you should own up to your wrongdoings you should be adult enough to acknowledge what others have done well. The world does not center around you in any form or fashion.

Say you are wrong.
Say you are sorry.
Say thank you.
Say you appreciate people.

Take some initiative. 
Take responsibility

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