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responsibility vs. accountability

English translation: accountability is accepting responsibility and being answerable for your actions

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:responsibility vs. accountability
English translation:accountability is accepting responsibility and being answerable for your actions
Entered by: John Kinory
Options:
- Contribute to this entry
- Include in personal glossary

19:13 May 30, 2002
English to English translations [PRO]
Bus/Financial / business report
English term or phrase: responsibility vs. accountability
I cannot make the difference between the terms "responsibility" and "accountability" which appear in the same sentence

"balance between individual responsibility, information access and accountablity"
Vesna Zivcic
Local time: 18:05
responsibility more general and more core than accountability
Explanation:
http://www.preciousheart.net/Ethics_Book/Ethics_Web/Eth-Ch5....

1. \\\"Responsibility\\\" Versus \\\"Accountability\\\"

\\\"Responsible\\\" includes \\\"accountable,\\\" and \\\"responsible\\\" is the more general term. Though these two terms are often used interchangeably, each one has a distinct focus. Webster\\\'s dictionary distinguishes between the synonymous uses of the two terms in this manner: \\\"responsible\\\" implies holding a specific office, duty, or trust; \\\"accountable\\\" suggests imminence of retribution for unfilled trust or violated obligations. [1]
A fine line occurs when we distinguish between the terms in usage. \\\"Responsible\\\" is the \\\"more general,\\\" does not focus so much upon a \\\"specific authority\\\" and refers mostly to \\\"general laws of right\\\" and the \\\"moral constitution of the universe\\\"; on the other hand, \\\"accountable\\\" refers to specific trust that is given and always involves a superior. [2]
\\\"Responsibility\\\" focuses more upon what one can and should do, more upon an individual\\\'s personal integrity with respect to a specific task: that is, if one is responsible for an action or a thing, then that person has a clear duty to do that action and take care of that thing. To be \\\"responsible\\\" for some action means to have not only a great teleological concern for the outcome of the action, \\\"responsible\\\" also means that one has some kind of clear obligation for doing the action or bringing the action to fruition. While \\\"being responsible\\\" always has other persons in mind, the focus of meaning is upon the individual\\\'s effort and duty and obligation.
\\\"Accountability\\\" focuses more upon what others including God expect from the person who is accountable. \\\"Accountability\\\" includes judgment and the extent of judgment for the success or failure to \\\"do,\\\" \\\"complete\\\" or \\\"protect\\\" that for which a person is held accountable. \\\"Accountability\\\" assumes a prior \\\"responsibility,\\\" for we always lay out what we expect before we can lay out what the consequences will be for failure to meet the expectations.
In a sense, \\\"responsible\\\" refers to how an individual should view that for which he or she is made responsible with respect to initiative and integrity. We can tell if a person is responsible when we judge that person\\\'s motives, intentions, and carefulness with respect to the task. \\\"Accountable\\\" refers to how the individual will be judged and thus either rewarded or punished. We can tell if a person is accountable only when we know who they have to answer to with respect to how well they accomplished the task and what reward or punishment was meted out.

So we can say that we are \\\"responsible\\\" without actually being \\\"accountable\\\" to anyone in particular. But if someone is \\\"accountable,\\\" therein is assumed a responsible party able to meet the demands of the higher authority to whom they will give an accounting.
In a summary distinction, \\\"responsibility\\\" focuses for the most part upon all of the elements of duty up to the point of decision, and \\\"accountability\\\" focuses for the most part upon all of the elements of duty after the decision is made.\\\"

Just to add that in my experience, \\\"responsibility\\\" is being responsible, doing the right thing, etc., whereas \\\"accountability\\\" is to be seen to be responsible, do the right thing, etc.!

Hope this helps
Selected response from:

Sam D
Local time: 17:05
Grading comment
Thank you!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +7responsibility more general and more core than accountabilitySam D
5 +3have a look below
Karina Pelech
5 +1The difference between responsibility and accountabilitySabine H
5 +1Explanation followsJohn Kinory
5responsibility vs. accountabilityParaskevi Brunson
4responsibility / accountability
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
4answer embedded in questionDaniel Isaacs
4equilibrio entre responsabilidad individual, acceso a la información y facilidad de contabilizarse..
Gabriel Aramburo Siegert
5 -1responsibility: a sense of obligation and commitment,; Accountability: below
Chinoise
4Accountable - answerable
Maya Jurt
4I do / did this. versus I do / did this because.....
jerrie


  

Answers


7 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
equilibrio entre responsabilidad individual, acceso a la información y facilidad de contabilizarse..


Explanation:
Good luck, Vesna.

Gabriel Aramburo Siegert
Local time: 11:05
Native speaker of: Native in SpanishSpanish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  John Kinory: English (mono) - ??? :-)
7 mins

neutral  Theodore Fink: accountability is not contabilizarse
1 hr
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8 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +3
have a look below


Explanation:
RESPONSIBLE implies holding a specific office, duty, or trust

ACCOUNTABLE suggests imminence of retribution for unfulfilled trust or violated obligation

Hope this helps ... :o)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-05-30 19:26:33 (GMT)
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Thus the main difference is the certainty or strength of implied/suggested duty.

Where one is responisible, they may be asked or take it upon themselves to be morally \'responsible\' for the actions they take, for themselves or others.

Where one is \'accountable\' they are duty-bound externally or impose a much strnger duty upon themselves to answer to any actions which may cause harm or damage to those they are responsible/accountable for.

... :o)

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Note added at 2002-05-30 19:27:34 (GMT)
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http://www.yourdictionary.com/cgi-bin/mw.cgi

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Note added at 2002-05-31 00:00:45 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

John, it seems as though you misunderstood my response to your opinion below. It was meant as a greeting, nothing more.

I hope the rest of you will enjoy the rest of the evening, and not be distracted from the question and context, in order to answer this somewhat sticky question.

Enjoy... :o)

Karina Pelech
Argentina
Local time: 13:05
Native speaker of: Native in SpanishSpanish
PRO pts in pair: 31

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  John Kinory: 'Retribution', 'violation' and the rest of the sentence are way over-the-top. Accountability is not about punishment, but about accepting responsibility for your actions.
8 mins
  -> Hi John - I wondered when you'd pop up. If you want to argue - do so with Merriam-Webster, for that is the explanation they give. I have added anote to the effect of being accountable/reponsible.. do you disagree with that? saludos ... :o)

neutral  Sam D: I think J. Kinory has a valid point
18 mins
  -> "accountability" is the basis for any punishment dished out BY others OR yourself, morally or literally - see my comment in John's answer... gracias igual ... :o)

agree  Maya Jurt: good explaniation!
47 mins
  -> Thank you very much Maya ... :o)

agree  Roomy Naqvy: There's no problem in agreeing with Merriam Webster.
2 hrs
  -> Thank you Roomy, ... saludos ... :o)

neutral  Henry Dotterer: Hey, go easy on John!
2 hrs
  -> Thanks for your support Henry ... saludos ... :o)

agree  Tatiana Neroni
5 hrs
  -> gracias Tatiana ... :o)
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11 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): -1
responsibility: a sense of obligation and commitment,; Accountability: below


Explanation:
responsibility: a sense of obligation,commitment being responsible for sth;
Accountability: being responsible for the whole matter (including explaining the reasons.)

Chinoise
Local time: 13:05
Native speaker of: Native in ChineseChinese
PRO pts in pair: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
disagree  John Kinory: You are using 'responsible' to explain 'accountable'. See below.
12 mins

neutral  Roomy Naqvy: I agree with the earlier commentator's point
2 hrs
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22 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
Explanation follows


Explanation:
Accountability is a slippery term, and also difficult to translate. I come across it a great deal in text about educational management (mainly English into Hebrew). It's either a buzzword or an important concept in human resource management, depending on your perspective :-)))

Responsibilities are all the functions that an individual is expected to fulfil under their job description/employment contract (written or implied) or some such.

Responsibility is the abstarct concept of the above - what an individual is supposed to - and permitted to do - as part of their job.

Accountability is the concept of accepting personal liability for your actions: not necessarily being punished when you transgress (there is no concept of punishment and/or scapegoating implied here), but accepting ('buying into', 'owning {up to}') your actions, accepting the consequences; which may involve further training, for example.

Subtle difference, but that's how the terms are used in this sort of literature.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-05-30 19:38:15 (GMT)
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texts, not text :-)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-05-30 20:11:52 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

To ACB:

First of all, disgusting rudeness will not get you out of a linguistic hole.

Secondly, www.yourdictionary.com, the world-renowned academic resource, or even MW, are no substitute for professional experience in the relevant field.

What I said holds; what you said doesn\'t - as simple as that. A manager\'s responsibilities include exercising his judgement with regard to the powers and authority and discretion s/he has: i.e. yes, precisely what s/he is permitted to do. This is responsiblity, NOT accountability. It\'s not a question of degree as you wrongly maintain, but of kind.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-05-30 20:15:12 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Accountability in modern HRM is nothing to do with blame, punishment, judgemental consequences - it\'s all to do with accepting that things went wrong and need to be rectified for the good of the organisation. I translated a whole book about this concept {shrug}.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-05-30 21:14:19 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Accountability in modern HRM is nothing to do with blame, punishment, judgemental consequences - it\'s all to do with accepting that things went wrong and need to be rectified for the good of the organisation. I translated a whole book about this concept {shrug}.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-05-31 14:34:46 (GMT) Post-grading
--------------------------------------------------

I accept Allan\'s explanation that he meant his comment to be a greeting.

John Kinory
Local time: 17:05
PRO pts in pair: 48

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Karina Pelech: responsibility: "permitted to do"?? - accountability is based upon being punished whether verbally, metaphorically, castigation or otherwise. What do you think "accepting the consequences" means? .. not an idea of 'punishment'?? ... saludos .. :o)
5 mins
  -> See above. You are simply wrong. Accountability in modern human resource management is nothing to do with punishment.

neutral  Kim Metzger: Disgusting rudeness? John, please don't use inflammatory language here. Let's not detract from the issue or from a positive and friendly atmosphere in the community.
1 hr
  -> Friendly atmosphere? 'Hi John - I wondered when you'd pop up' is 'friendly atmosphere'? Oh, give me strength!

neutral  Theodore Fink: I support Kim Metzger's comment.
1 hr
  -> The whole tone of Allan's (ACB) reply to a factual linguistic comment was inflammatory. I suppose I should not be surprised that you can't get moderators to be even-handed and objective {shrug}

neutral  Yuri Geifman: I'm in full support of Kim's message (I remember a story about this Talmudic scholar who plucked another's beard because of a disagreement as to the meaning of the word Peace...)
1 hr
  -> It's your opinion. I am entitled to make a linguistic comment without being flamed.

neutral  Roomy Naqvy: Professor Kinory [I shall call you Professor for your keenness for undue polemic!!!], such torment from you all for no valid reason. Well, we are all responsible and accountable to each other, aren't we?
2 hrs
  -> I feel no torment: do you? And of course, this is yet another moderator who instead of trying to restore reason, goes out of his way to inflame matters: dare I say, Typical of what Proz has become?'

neutral  Henry Dotterer: To be fair, ACB was equally 'inflammatory'. Anyway, I respect both members' contributions. Interesting question.
2 hrs
  -> At last, a voice of reason. Thanks, Henry. Now, will you make the same comment under ACB's answer?

agree  Sue Goldian
2 hrs
  -> Thanks, Sue!
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31 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
The difference between responsibility and accountability


Explanation:
Responsibility: Having the job or duty of doing something, where one may be blamed if something goes wrong.

Accountability: Requirements or expectations to give an explanation of one's actions.


    Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary
Sabine H
United States
Local time: 09:05

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Nikki Scott-Despaigne
12 hrs
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43 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +7
responsibility more general and more core than accountability


Explanation:
http://www.preciousheart.net/Ethics_Book/Ethics_Web/Eth-Ch5....

1. \\\"Responsibility\\\" Versus \\\"Accountability\\\"

\\\"Responsible\\\" includes \\\"accountable,\\\" and \\\"responsible\\\" is the more general term. Though these two terms are often used interchangeably, each one has a distinct focus. Webster\\\'s dictionary distinguishes between the synonymous uses of the two terms in this manner: \\\"responsible\\\" implies holding a specific office, duty, or trust; \\\"accountable\\\" suggests imminence of retribution for unfilled trust or violated obligations. [1]
A fine line occurs when we distinguish between the terms in usage. \\\"Responsible\\\" is the \\\"more general,\\\" does not focus so much upon a \\\"specific authority\\\" and refers mostly to \\\"general laws of right\\\" and the \\\"moral constitution of the universe\\\"; on the other hand, \\\"accountable\\\" refers to specific trust that is given and always involves a superior. [2]
\\\"Responsibility\\\" focuses more upon what one can and should do, more upon an individual\\\'s personal integrity with respect to a specific task: that is, if one is responsible for an action or a thing, then that person has a clear duty to do that action and take care of that thing. To be \\\"responsible\\\" for some action means to have not only a great teleological concern for the outcome of the action, \\\"responsible\\\" also means that one has some kind of clear obligation for doing the action or bringing the action to fruition. While \\\"being responsible\\\" always has other persons in mind, the focus of meaning is upon the individual\\\'s effort and duty and obligation.
\\\"Accountability\\\" focuses more upon what others including God expect from the person who is accountable. \\\"Accountability\\\" includes judgment and the extent of judgment for the success or failure to \\\"do,\\\" \\\"complete\\\" or \\\"protect\\\" that for which a person is held accountable. \\\"Accountability\\\" assumes a prior \\\"responsibility,\\\" for we always lay out what we expect before we can lay out what the consequences will be for failure to meet the expectations.
In a sense, \\\"responsible\\\" refers to how an individual should view that for which he or she is made responsible with respect to initiative and integrity. We can tell if a person is responsible when we judge that person\\\'s motives, intentions, and carefulness with respect to the task. \\\"Accountable\\\" refers to how the individual will be judged and thus either rewarded or punished. We can tell if a person is accountable only when we know who they have to answer to with respect to how well they accomplished the task and what reward or punishment was meted out.

So we can say that we are \\\"responsible\\\" without actually being \\\"accountable\\\" to anyone in particular. But if someone is \\\"accountable,\\\" therein is assumed a responsible party able to meet the demands of the higher authority to whom they will give an accounting.
In a summary distinction, \\\"responsibility\\\" focuses for the most part upon all of the elements of duty up to the point of decision, and \\\"accountability\\\" focuses for the most part upon all of the elements of duty after the decision is made.\\\"

Just to add that in my experience, \\\"responsibility\\\" is being responsible, doing the right thing, etc., whereas \\\"accountability\\\" is to be seen to be responsible, do the right thing, etc.!

Hope this helps

Sam D
Local time: 17:05
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 8
Grading comment
Thank you!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Piotr Kurek
20 mins
  -> Thanks Piotr

agree  Kim Metzger: Fantastic analysis.
29 mins
  -> Thanks ACB!

agree  Karina Pelech: good work ... :o)
57 mins
  -> Oops! Thanks Kim!

agree  Yuri Geifman
1 hr
  -> Thanks Yuri!

agree  Roomy Naqvy: good work
2 hrs
  -> Thanks Roomy!

neutral  Marcus Malabad: sorry, I have ADD, I would've read through it but the \\"" kept on distracting me ;-)
2 hrs
  -> Terrible, isn't it? It's the first time it's happened to me when posting an answer on proz. Persevere, man!

agree  Olga Simon: Excellent!
12 hrs
  -> Thanks Olga!

agree  Mike Sekine: yay
13 hrs
  -> Thanks Mike!
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54 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
Accountable - answerable


Explanation:
http://www.bartleby.com/61/25/R0182500.html

ADJECTIVE: 1. Liable to being called to account; answerable. See synonyms at responsible. 2. That can be explained: an accountable phenomenon
OTHER FORMS: ac·countabili·ty, ac·counta·ble·ness —NOUN
ac·counta·bly —ADVERB

NOUN: Inflected forms: pl. re·spon·si·bil·i·ties
1. The state, quality, or fact of being responsible. 2. Something for which one is responsible; a duty, obligation, or burden.

Maybe the German tell you the difference:
Responsible; verantwortlich sein
Toh hold somebody accountable for: Jemand für etwas verantwortlich machen.
accountable to someone: jemandem gegenüber (für etwas) verantwortlich sein.

Antoher example:
Parents are answerable for their children's behavior: Eltern haften für ihre Kinder.
Does that help?



Maya Jurt
Local time: 18:05
Native speaker of: Native in GermanGerman, Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in pair: 19
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
I do / did this. versus I do / did this because.....


Explanation:
This is the simplest way that I can explain it.

individual responsibility: a job/task/action for which you alone are responsible for. In the event of anything going wrong/not being done etc there are no questions. It is your responsibility full stop.

accountability : an explanation is required. You are accountable for your actions / lack of actions. You can try to explain, justify etc, but you have to give a reason.

As you can see Vesna...this is a tricky one to explain.

jerrie
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:05
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 773
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
answer embedded in question


Explanation:
The two terms are obviously very close, as the analyses above show. I apologise in advance for taking a simplistic approach and not going to dictionaries - I doubt that the writers of the report went to one. I think that they are distinguishing between \"individual responsibility\" and the \"accountability\" of a body (most likely the company). I get this from your text, Vesna, because \"individual\" is antecedent to \"responsibility\" but not to accountability, as these are separated by \"information access\" which I doubt is individual but rather something that the company is meant to provide. In conclusion, I presume that what is being spoken about here is the individual responsibility of directors (most likely), the requirement of the company to provide access to information, and its accountability (most likely to its shareholders, or some such).
And to throw a spanner into the works, the term \"responsible government\" means \"government that is accountable to the electorate\" just showing that in some cases, the terms mean exactly the same thing.

Daniel Isaacs
Local time: 18:05
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
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5 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
responsibility vs. accountability


Explanation:
I first heard this term in the early 1980's.
(I hope you read through all of the other answers because I found them to be well researched).
The way to understand this comparison from a business sense is that the worker (the one that produces something) is to blame (responsible) for mistakes and the manager will have to explain why he let it happen.

No references required I know this is what you are looking for.

Take care,
TBrunson
PBrunson's Editor

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Note added at 2002-06-01 00:32:33 (GMT) Post-grading
--------------------------------------------------

\"balance between individual responsibility, information access and accountablity\"
Now that you shoveled through, send me the whole paragraph so I can help you.
tebrunson@earthlink.net

Paraskevi Brunson
United States
Local time: 09:05
Native speaker of: Native in GreekGreek
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13 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
responsibility / accountability


Explanation:
Responsibility can be voluntary or involuntary. It can be moral or legal. You can be responsible for someone, something or a situation without having to answer for it.

Accountability is generally restricted -although not always - to obligations you have assumed voluntarily. It too can be moral or legal. You are morally accountable for your behaviour, although you may not be obliged to give any explanation to anyone. You may be legally accountable to your employer, to the tax authorities etc.

The potential for definition here is endless. There are many instances of cross-over but I think the essential elements are there.

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Note added at 2002-05-31 08:34:38 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Where you are accountable, you are generally also responsible. However, you can be responsible for something without having to be accountable for ti.

Nikki Scott-Despaigne
Local time: 18:05
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 26
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