Practice Accountability, Not Scapegoating

Karl Bimshas
3 min readJun 4, 2024
Practice Accountability, Not Scapegoating by Karl Bimshas

Some people dislike the word accountable, mainly because they associate it with blame. That shortsighted, glass-half-empty perspective will hold you back. Accountability is not “Who’s to blame?” it’s “Who’s responsible?” When you’re responsible for something but decide not to act, that’s called abdication, a fancy word for quitting. Autonomy, the freedom to make your own decisions, continues to rank among the top desires of people in their work life. Autonomy without accountability is silly.

I was once engaged to help on a project that had gone awry. I asked the team who was accountable for various parts of the project and told them it was their responsibility to find ways to fix the errors within their purview. I wasn’t blaming them; I was reiterating their duties. Senior management was skittish and said, “Don’t you think you’re being too rough? We’re all in this together.” That’s great, but it was false. They permitted autonomy but not responsibility — silly and a disservice.

On a separate occasion, the same organization had another project whose leadership had abdicated. I didn’t know any of the particulars when I was called in other than their customer was ticked off. I took over the project and asked about the role of each stakeholder. I told everyone I was ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the project, and they were responsible for their individual roles. Most people were relieved because the target was off their backs, and they had a new person to accuse if things continued to go wrong. I held regular progress report meetings, and when something stalled, the causality was evident to everyone.

During the first few meetings, the client was still angry, and they took it out on me. I didn’t take it personally. Instead, I let them continue to vent their frustrations, which allowed me to learn their core dissatisfaction. I took their blame head-on because I assumed accountability for the entire project. Some people called it falling on the sword. The status meeting communication was frequent and thorough, so everyone knew who or what hampered progress. As we worked closer with the client, they began to share some responsibility, and by the end of the project, they were singing our praises. We moved from the cusp of being thrown out to being named their provider of choice because we chose accountability over scapegoating.

Being accountable isn’t easy; so many people shirk from it. When you accept accountability, it’s empowering, and things get easier. You have a choice. If things are not going well in your relationship, your finances, your current skill set, your health outlook, or any other area of your life, will you use the government, a mythical deep state, the economy, the weather, or your parents as a scapegoat for you? Blaming gets boring. Taking responsibility, now that’s exciting. You can actually do stuff.

Pick one or two things you’ve blamed on others and ask yourself, “For what part of this problem am I accountable?” Show some leadership. Accept responsibility and work on improving what’s within your power to improve. You’ll be stunned by what you can accomplish.



Karl Bimshas

Boston-bred and California-chilled Leadership Adviser | Writer | Podcast Host who helps busy professionals who want to manage better and lead well.