Responsibility and wellbeing at work
Responsibility seems to be a trendy concept, and a topic discussed at coffee tables, management board meetings as well as in politics. People are demanded to acknowledge their own responsibility for their working capacity and career extension. Responsibility is underlined when things need to be accomplished or changes implemented at the workplace. The necessity to take responsibility is emphasized when people are required to deliver greater efficiency and better results. It is admitted, however, that responsibility is heavy but it needs to be borne.
In earlier days, the notion of responsibility was so obvious that it needed not be explained or defined. Therefore, I feel that it should be discussed. But when we discuss it, we should see the bigger picture and understand the relevance of responsibility to other issues. Responsibility cannot be given - it can only be taken, which is not possible without certain degrees of freedom and courage.
But I do believe that responsible behaviour and thinking can be enabled and practised. A culture of taking responsibility can be created coupled with an environment which enables responsibility to be taken as extensively as possible. Highlighting the benefits of taking responsibility and, on the other hand, the problems caused by failing to do so are a good start.
What, then, does responsibility at work refer to? It refers to smoothly running and meaningful work and to humanity. It refers to not just doing things, but making conscious choices taking consequences into consideration. It refers to understanding connections and multiplier effects. It refers to seeing one's own work in a wider context. It refers to specialists bearing their responsibility, not only for their work but also for their working capacity, the working community and cooperation. It refers to understanding the importance of the golden mean for oneself and knowing how to apply it.
On the other hand, it is important to understand that your work always relates to the work of others and the competence and working capacity of others. For what use does a company have for a specialist who does not care about him/herself and sacrifices him/herself at the altar of speed? Or a specialist who is unable to tell others what he/she is doing, unable to learn from others or to comply with common rules?
I believe that on average, an employee who makes an effort to work in a responsible manner is more satisfied and happier. Therefore we all should try and take broad responsibility for our own working capacity, working community and work. Responsibility cannot be outsourced without sacrificing humanity. And it would not be reasonable either, because in the end, we all are responsible for our own wellbeing!
Katja Atsar works for Ilmarinen's wellbeing at work in the Greater Helsinki area. She works with a variety of companies operating in different business areas, including Kesko and the K-Retailers' Association. Earlier she worked as a business coach and in HR duties for large international companies.