The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Responsibility overload

Sometimes, team members will make themselves responsible for something independent from their tasks and role.

They help out. To some extent, this is the right thing to do.

It’s time to reconsider when a sense of heroism steps in.

The extent of one’s responsibility depends on one’s role and the tasks linked to it. But it only goes as far as responsibility is accessible.

People need to be able to exercise their responsibility. For this, they need the corresponding authority and power enabling them to achieve the desired outcome.

Take for example the IT specialist who notices that to finish all the calculations on time they would need more hardware. He has seen a problem. And he may be able to find a solution by integrating other hardware that is accessible. In this case, he most often will need to ask to be able to do so, that is request the authority to act. Once he has the authority, he will need access to that hardware. May it be by getting access to the room where the hardware is located. It is only then that he has the power to act.

It is a standard situation in which someone notices a problem and decides to act on it.

Where things become complicated is, when the problem the person perceives is not actually within his or her role. This doesn’t mean that the person can’t do anything about it. But what lies within their responsibility is limited by their authority and their power. These limits are there to guide their choice of action.

An action may be to simply connect with the person actually responsible. Another may be to request the authority and power needed to act oneself.

That’s how it works.

What doesn’t work is to make oneself responsible without the needed authority and power to achieve the outcomes. While it may sometimes work out it usually means to ask more of oneself than is achievable, leading to stress, frustration, and possibly burnout.

That’s also the case when making oneself responsible for other people’s problems.

Helping where help is welcome is good enough.


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