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Accountability versus Arrogance

I am not a huge fan of New Year's resolutions. If they work for you, great! I prefer to set an intention for the year and make decisions based on my intention. This year, I made two: just do it, and be consistent. With that being said, in living my intention, I am going to just do it, and start a series on choices. I am still thinking about the title of my series, but I am not going to wait until all my ideas are perfect, but instead, I am going to live my intention and JUST DO IT! Over the next year, I will be going through the alphabet of choices. The goal is being intentional about the choices we make and accepting the consequences of those choices. If you aren't happy with outcomes in your life, that is a great opportunity to make different choices.


This leads me to the first choice. Accountability versus Arrogance. Many people equate accountability with punishment. Sometimes, punishment is part of being accountable, but a more accurate definition is taking responsibility for your choices, both good and bad. Being accountable means, you aren't blaming your circumstances (or other people) for how you behave, but really taking ownership over how you respond to those situations (or people). You also get to take responsibility for the consequences of your choices. The reality is, we can't always control what is happening around us, but we can control how we respond.


Arrogance, on the other hand, is an overinflated sense of importance, skill, and/or confidence. Tim Urban defines it as, "arrogance is ignorance plus conviction." When one is arrogant, they are very rarely accountable. Arrogant people think they are always right, they know everything, and are very unlikely to take accountability for mistakes or missteps. Often times, their defense mechanism is to blame and point the finger in any direction than their own. When proven to have made a mistake, many arrogant people will double down in their convictions and avoid accountability in any way, shape or form. Arrogance is also believing that the consequences apply to everyone but you. Many arrogant people will use emotional manipulation when they are finally held accountable. The goal is to not take it personal and continue to practice accountability for yourself and others,

What is the impact?

Thinking about our personal and professional lives, being accountable versus arrogant can make huge improvements in all aspects. It improves relationships, reduces stress, and have better outcomes. Being accountable can be empowering and help us feel more control over our daily lives. Accountability also helps us feel less victimized and feel more in control over the world around us.

Personal and Professional Examples

Personal Example: Your teenage children haven't done their chores for the 110th time. You are feeling frustrated and annoyed they just won't listen and do what they are supposed to do. You do what you always do and lose your temper and yell at the kids again and take away their phones as a punishment. Feeling a mixture of guilt and obligation, you still take the kids to their soccer practice and tell them they can do their chores when they get home.

In this situation, what would look different if everyone was accountable?

  • The children chose not to do their chores - how were they accountable? Yes, they lost their phone privileges, but they still got to go to practice and not complete their chores. And if and when they do their chores, they aren't doing them because they are taking ownership over their household responsibilities - they just want their phones back. They are arrogant, knowing they can avoid their chores and still get what they want. They just have to make their parent feel guilty.

If they were accountable, they could recognize they did not take care of their chores and be responsible for doing that. If that means they have to skip soccer practice to do that, they will own that and miss practice without a fuss.

  • The parent chose to lose their temper, yell at the children and give a punitive consequence, even though that hasn't changed the children's behavior before. The parent was arrogant to think that just telling the children should equal compliance and is frustrated that hasn't worked. The parent has an emotional outburst because the strategy they have used over and over isn't having a different result.

If the parent was accountable, they would realize their strategy of yelling, punishment and then reward is not working. They would be accountable for their emotional intelligence and realizing they are justified in feeling frustrated, but they don't have to respond out of the frustration. They would be accountable for finding a new strategy to manage chores. This may include helping the children be accountable. It might look like this: "Hey children, I notice you didn't complete your chores of XYZ today. Given that you were supposed to have that done before I got home from work, it looks like you will have to miss soccer practice today so you can do them." No yelling and no guilt. If going to soccer practice is important to the children, next time they will make different choices.

Professional Example: Your job has implemented a new policy. You attended a training about the change, but you left with several questions. You asked your supervisor, and they didn't have a lot of additional information either, stating "this is new to them too." A few weeks later, you work is audited and you get it sent back to correct an error. This has no impact to your salary or promotion ability; it is just annoying. This error was a result of the question you asked and couldn't get an answer. You go and vent and complain to a coworker about how unfair it is. You correct the mistake, and you're so irritated you head straight to happy hour after work to take the edge off.

In this situation, what would it look like if you were accountable?

  • You could just fix the error and continue on with your day and just chalk it up to receiving new information, and you finally got the answer to the question you asked (even if you didn't love the delivery). You could also have a conversation with your supervisor and let them know you are glad to get the clarification, and you would hope you could get information in a more efficient way.

This doesn't absolve the supervisors and managers from their responsibility to communicate effectively. But you have a choice on how you respond. This is where your accountability lies. You can't control what others do, but how you respond to it. Venting and complaining to a coworker isn't fixing the issue. If nothing else, it is wasting time, as it resolves nothing. Happy hour to resolve irritation also doesn't solve the problem. It's a band aid. By not being accountable to fix the problem, you are directly contributing to it. Saying, "I recognize there is a problem that directly affects me, but I will not address it directly with the people who can fix it because that isn't my job," is arrogant.


At the end of the day, you have many choices. Again, you can't control the world around you, but you can control how you respond to it. Take some time to be observant. Where can you be more accountable? Where might you choose to lose some arrogance and be open? Whatever choice you make, the consequences belong to you!

Happy New Year!

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