Irresponsible vs. Selective Responsibility

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A couple years ago I started a little theory/philosophy of my own based on the concept of selectivity. I have developed several key, lightly-supported statements/concepts for it. One of them revolves around responsibility

  1. Selective Hearing
  2. Selective Blindness
  3. Selective Memory
  4. Selective Responsibility

Today I thought I would write out some of my thoughts on Selective Responsibility. The impact in my own personal and professional life, along with those I deal with, has been in my thoughts of late.

Many times I have heard people comment on the irresponsibility of various people. Yet these were people that I knew, and didn’t think of as necessarily irresponsible people. So why were they seen as irresponsible? Because they weren’t taking care of certain of their responsibilities.

But when you look at their other activities, they are doing very good work, showing excellent responsibility. So do they just not care about part of their work? their responsibility?

Some people say it is a question of prioritizing, and you get things lined up from most important to least, and manage to get everything done, or find ways to lighten your load of things that don’t take priority. It is just a matter of priorities.

Yet these people, and sometimes me, despite all the “prioritizing”, don’t manage to get everything done on their responsibility list. So are they just not working hard enough? smart enough?

The fact of the matter is that some people, some positions, are just given too many responsibilities for the person to handle. If the person tries to somehow unload, the items simply get moved back around and onto their plate. There is no way to complete all, or reduce.

So what does one do in this circumstance? One exercises selective responsibility. One acknowledges that everything cannot be done, and chooses what things will be done. You only touch the items on the outlier when time and chance and prodding require you to.

You select your responsibilities, and take them all seriously.  This is different than people that don’t care at all: the irresponsible.

The problems with selective responsibility are the level of guilt for the person exercising it, and the level of threat from the authorities above the person to threaten their well-being for the items they don’t get done.

From the perspective of some management, I suppose this is good. Always having people overworked, always having something one can dangle over them about their lack of performance, can be an exceptional prod to have to hand. The other hand can, of course, hold the carrot.

But it isn’t good from the prospective of the individual. Overworked people eventually break, leave, move on. Although many are good at keeping their heads down and moving froward as long as they don’t get moved out.

So, the core of this is the question of the motive, intent of the person, whether it is irresponsibility or selective responsibility. The key is to recognize the difference. You can find the most productive person when you recognize the difference.

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