Lateral Solutions Consultancy

Thinking, Leadership, Career and Performance Management

Taking Ownership in Your Workplace

Posted by dtheyagu on January 28, 2007

Taking Ownership of what you are doing

Daniel Theyagu 



So you are an employee?  You work for a living.  Your boss is always breathing down your neck.  You wish you had a better job.  There must be something better out there for you. 


These statements must have occasionally passed through your mind.  Especially when you are faced with uncertainty in the job that you are doing and you feel that your effort and the work that you do does not quite justify and satisfy your true ability.  Then again this is where the paradox lies.  What is your true ability? 

The world we live in today has undergone rapid and disruptive changes.  What were accepted norms are being thrown out of the window!  New ideas, new working philosophy and new creed are replacing the old ones.  This means that your employability and survivability in your organization is based on your ability to take ownership of what you are doing.  Even if you are employed by someone else, you are as much the owner of the company as your employer is.  When you take ownership of what you are doing you internalize that part of your job and become energized in what you do. 


It’s like you losing your wallet and wanting to find it very much.  You will notice if this has happened to you, you put a lot of dedication if trying to find that wallet of yours.  However, think what you will do if your colleague or friend comes to you and says that he/she has lost the wallet and ask for your assistance to find it!  You will certainly help, but you might not be that much dedicated in really looking for the wallet.  For a simple reason being that it is not yours. 


This parable is what exactly happens in organizational setting.  People working in organization are sometimes simply running around doing things the right way.  They are efficient but not really effective.  They keep to organizational protocols and practices but do not question their validity or the need to change.  After a period whatever they are doing becomes sort of ‘acceptable practices’ and a general state of inertia sets in.  If you have reach this kind of state, it is about time that you start questioning your values and identify your vision and try to figure out whether you are doing the right thing of staying on or perhaps you should move on. 


Moving on to something else might be a step in the right direction.  The traditional approach of long term employability is being challenged today.  Many organizations are now offering shorter contract terms to their employees so that the organization have the option of selecting and keeping those employees that they feel would be an asset to the organization.  This sometimes might create a sense of dissonance and lack of conviction on your part as you might not be sure whether you are wanted after your contract runs out. 


If you are keen to stay on and you feel that you can be an asset to your organization, what you need to do is to take ownership of your job.  You need to change your paradigm from the traditional “I work for the organization” to one whereby you change your mindset and see as if “the organization is working for me” instead.  You should learn to see yourself as the owner, no matter where you stand in your organization.  Achieving this paradigm shift in you will automatically allow you to start to contribute effectively to your organization.


How can you achieve this new paradigm shift? 


I would like to propose the 4R that will allow you to take ownership of whatever that you are doing in your organization.  Here they are.



Learn to take responsibility for the actions that you undertake.  Responsibility comes from the root word ‘response’. This means you should response to the situation rather than react to it.  Taking responsibility will show you up as a person of high integrity and conviction and that will in turn make others look up to you and value your opinion and the decisions that you’ve got to make. 


You can develop this quality in you by volunteering when you know you can take on a certain task rather than waiting to be asked.  Sometimes, people wait to be ask because they have this feeling in them that they are not wanted and by being asked would alleviate them to a higher level of importance.  This is certainly a quality of a person suffering from inferiority complex.  You don’t have to feel this way.  You can dive yourself into your workload with passion and give it all your best.  When you do this regularly, people in your organization will take notice, one way or another. 


Taking responsibility will also make you a more confident person and boost your self-esteem.   When you feel this way you inevitably develop the next quality that will make you personally successful.



When we buy any item we want to ensure that they are reliable.  For one simple reason – when it is reliable it will not give us problem and will serve our purpose.  Likewise, reliability is a personal quality that you should develop and extrude in your organization.  When you are reliable, you will realize that you become your own boss.  You will also become an indispensable asset of your organization.  You will be someone whom the organization feels can help drive them to



Being resolute ensures that you do not easily get swayed by what others are saying about the organization you are working for and about yourself.  You should learn to be open to constructive criticism that allows you to self-analyze and improve your personal and professional qualities. However, don’t fall prey to those ‘emotional vampires’ in your organization who have the tendency to sap your sense of self-awareness and self-regard and make you feel as if that you are wasting your time with the company.  It is easy to be swayed from what you want to achieve if you are unclear and unsure in your mind what is it you really want.  


You can become more resolute by becoming clear in what your goals are and to synchronize your own personal goals with that of your organization’s goals.  If you are unable to do this, it may mean that you are unable to see what is it that your organization is working towards and this will definitely lead to a clash between you and the organization.  If you feel that you are unable to do this, then perhaps it might be a good idea to move on.  However, if you feel that you can change your mindset and work in-sync with your organization’s vision that you need to develop the next quality in yourself.



Sometimes we lose sight of our goals and purpose in life because we feel that we might be in the rut and just plain unlucky.  There are some who believe that they are plagued by hard luck.  This is nothing more than a negative state of mind.  You may have heard of the saying: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!’! This is absolutely true.  You can become tough by learning to make your own luck.  How? 


By becoming resourceful!  Learn how to work within limitations and maximize your productivity.  I’ve never heard of any organization that has abundant resources.  One way or other there will be some form of shortages.  If it is not in manpower, it would be in equipment or other things.  What you need to do is to see what you could do to exploit the resources available at your disposal to the maximum benefit of your organization.  This is one area when you can learn to think creatively.  When you become resourceful you make sure that whatever you have works for you.  Much as you might think you are working for your organization, you must also remember the organization is working for you.  The very fact that you are still employed is a testament to the fact that your organization believes in your ability.  It is up to you to drive your organization from wherever you are.  You can achieve this by doing the next thing.




Re-Learn, Re-ThinkThe day we stop learning is the day we die.  Learning is an on-going process.  It starts from the time you were conceived and continues to your dying breath.  Learning also involves re-learning.  You must develop the habit of letting go out-dated visions and work methods and learn to embrace new technology and new ways of doing things.  Also when things do not work as they should do so, you need to re-think the situation and come up with new ways of doing things.  To quote Albert Einstein who said:  “The world we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them.”  We are everyday confronted with problems.  Instead of trying to avoid these problems, see them as opportunities for you to re-learn and re-think what you are doing.  You don’t have to re-invent the wheel but you could certainly improve on the quality of the wheel and make it more durable. 

Make it a point everyday to learn something new or do something different.  Try to re-think of something that you have been doing regularly in your organization to see whether you could refine the process, perhaps cut short the time or possibly change to something more efficient.  Many a time, people only start thinking when things go wrong.  Learn to be proactive and continuously assess your ground and what you are doing.  Creating this sense of self-awareness in you will make what you are doing more efficacious and help you remain self-motivated.   

President John F Kennedy famously once said: “Ask not what the country can do for you, but ask what you can do for the country!” You and your organization must become as one wholesome unit.  Only when you are able to achieve this state can you feel a sense of completeness in what you are doing and come to terms with your obligation to your organization.  Here too, leaders in organization have to play a pivotal role to create the psychological ambience that allows their staff to take ownership of their organization.   

Leaders can achieve this state of consciousness by empowering their staff when they seem fit to take on additional responsibilities.  Leaders should also maintain an open environment that allows all sorts of communication to flourish so that everyone knows their job. They should also develop a habit of emotionally connecting with their staff so that the staff sees them not just as their superior, but someone whom they can trust and rely upon.  

Sometimes it is easy to forget where we are going and end someplace else.  Only to realize that there was no necessity to move at all in the first place.  Embrace the above 4R qualities and take ownership in whatever you are doing and you will feel a sense of personal achievement. 


21 Responses to “Taking Ownership in Your Workplace”

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  3. Terry Renfrow said

    I work in an organization within GE Appliances where taking ownership has been a hot topic recently. I am also 59 years of age and still working toward my degree in Management and I am supposed to write a paper on a work related problem in my workplace. I want to write it on ownership in the workplace. Your article inspired me and makes me want to research the question of ownership further. Any suggestions as I prepare to write my paper and also help my organization move toward more ownership? God Bless !

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