Career Advice: Taking Ownership

Taking ownership at work is a good way to help yourself get ahead, it shows dedication, is good for the image of a business, and can also allow you to impress your boss or supervisor. But, what exactly does it mean, and how do you go about taking ownership for things at work?

Taking ownership for a situation is about accepting a problem and being responsible for solving it for someone else. Imagine that you work at a call centre and someone has telephoned in with a query that is not something that your department would normally deal with. Taking ownership would mean explaining that it wasn’t something you normally dealt with, but promising that you would look into it and get back to them. Maybe you’d need to speak to someone in a different department for example, but you have made the customer’s problem your own and will work to fix it for them. Not taking ownership would mean telling the customer that it wasn’t your department and telling them to call someone else, or even saying you would get back to them and not bothering!

You can imagine which of these approaches has the best impact on the customers and thereby reflects better on the company, and also on you as an employee. But taking ownership isn’t just for those who deal with the general public – your ‘customer’ may actually be a colleague in a different department, a co-worker, or even your boss!

Rather than passing the buck to someone else you can show that you care about your job and are willing to take responsibility. It shows that you are a reliable employee, who is happy to take on some extra work to get the job done. In business-talk they might say that you are ‘results orientated’ – but really it is just about making sure something gets done for the benefit of the customer and your employer. However, while taking ownership for a situation can be good for your career, there needs to be a word of warning.

There is a difference between taking on responsibility for a problem and doing someone else’s job for them. Don’t let yourself be fooled into doing work that you shouldn’t but instead see if you can chase up another department, find out about any delays, and see if there is anything you can do to help (if it’s particularly important and you don’t mind!). Going the extra mile is fine so long as people see you crossing the finish line.

Also, don’t get yourself into difficulties by acting above your level as an employee. Don’t start making promises that your boss would need to sign off on, or speak for another department or employee.

Basically, taking ownership for a situation can be a great way to show how reliable and capable you are. It can also allow you to make useful contacts in other departments, impress your boss, and generally shine at work - but don’t make promises that you can’t carry.

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