Personal Accountability in the Workplace: Own Your Sh*t, Please

Personal and corporate growth requires an openness to receiving feedback. However, once in a great while, I find myself in a business coaching engagement with a client who remains closed, defensive and not open to receiving stakeholder feedback. This happened recently.

Let's take a look at the difference taking personal accountability in the workplace can make for your team and sales growth.

I was referred into coaching the owner of an established company that was in decline, but it had great potential. We’ll call this owner Defensive Dan. His poor management was holding his leadership team intellectually and emotionally hostage with his bullying and blaming.

After firing one manager, Defensive Dan took on that manager’s responsibilities in addition to his regular responsibilities. Because he already had one full time job, and because the former manager’s responsibilities weren’t his strongest skills, more problems inevitably cropped up in that department.

Defensive Dan could have taken ownership for the new and developing challenges as he worked to correct the issues. Instead, he pointed the finger at another member of his leadership team, blaming him for the issues. The scapegoat, in turn, was afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation from Dan.

Defensiveness Distracts

This wasn’t the only instance of Defensive Dan sabotaging his company. He had a history of verbally lashing out at his entire management team, intimidating and belittling them. His approach to communication had poisoned the health of the company culture, and his unwillingness to own his own sh*t is what ultimately led to my firing him as a client.

What he couldn’t, or wouldn’t see was that the company environment was so poisonous that there was a lot of foundation and trust building that needed to be done in order to help the leadership team and company realize its full potential.

For example, there was a sales manager in the company whose year-over-year sales had stagnated, and his confidence was destroyed by Defensive Dan. Yet, with 4 months of business coaching, I helped this sales manager rediscover the talents he possessed. In short, he rediscovered his mojo.

With a minimal amount of coaching, this manager is on track to finish this year with 50% growth over last year. All the talent was there—he just needed someone to help tune up his capabilities and, more importantly, he needed someone to support and encourage him as opposed to tearing him down.

Even after a very direct conversation and seeing impressive sales results in such a short period of time, Defensive Dan still wasn’t open to acknowledging his role in tearing down and diminishing the sales managers confidence. He wouldn’t even consider how an improved corporate culture could change the dynamic and success of his organization.

Ultimately, Defensive Dan was truly resistant to change and unwilling to take any personal responsibility or accountability. His team was faced with a boss who thought he had all the answers and who scared everyone into submission. At the core, he simply refused to own his own sh*t. It was time to end the coaching relationship.

The Fallout of Not Taking Personal Responsibility

Not accepting personal responsibility has left Defensive Dan in the position where 20% of his leadership team has quit, another 40% are actively looking for new opportunities, and the final 40% are frustrated and questioning their future direction.

And the sales manager who responded so positively to coaching? He’s going to finish out a stellar year, but most likely won’t be able to sustain this level of growth without support from the top.

As a manager, it’s on you to foster an organizational culture that values an open exchange of insights, ideas and suggestions, and makes it the norm for all levels to receive continuous feedback without defensiveness.

Sometimes, organizations find they need a third party to assist in making this happen. However you approach it, deflect any defensiveness and own your own sh*t. Your entire organization will thank you!

If hearing the particulars of this story would help you or your partners, send me a note or give me a and (414) 315-0523. You can also get on my calendar directly for a free discovery call here:

My background

My career path started out at IBM before moving on to start, build and eventually sell two technology service companies. From there, I’ve been a global channel development partner, and personal/corporate achievement coach helping leaders and teams break through to the next level. 

Break Through

If you or your team needs help breaking through to the next level of performance, or if you have a friend who’d appreciate having access to me as their personal and/or corporate achievement coach, please reach out for a free discovery call or email me at

See what past and present clients have to say about our work together or check out additional blogs and podcasts .


Phil Mydlach

Phil Mydlach is a high-performance executive coach who shows people and companies how to break through to their next level of ability, growth, and performance. He partners with them as they lean into their edge to confront the fears that are holding them back.

Print Friendly and PDF