Freedom and Responsibility

Freedom and responsibility are linked.  Problems occur when they are decoupled.

In a strict rules-based environment, where all behavior is dictated and abnormal behavior punished, there is little need for individual responsibility. The rule-maker assumes the responsibility and the individual suffers the consequences, for better or worse.

With freedom comes responsibility. Where there are no rules, behavior becomes the responsibility of the individual.

In an effort to enforce attendance at work, organizations (in the US) introduced limits to sick days and vacation days. The individual no longer had responsibility in that matter, and freedom only within the limits of the policy.

Some organizations adopted policies of unlimited vacation days, sick days, personal time off days, shifting the entire responsibility of attendance to the individual. This works only if the individual assumes that responsibility and behaves accordingly. Problems occur when, given that freedom, individuals do not respond to that responsibility.

Freedom and responsibility are linked.

Expand that coupling to working from home, flex time and larger issues. Expand that coupling to social institutions and governments. Freedom can only exist in an environment of individual responsibility. It is in the absence of individual responsibility that freedom becomes limited, by rules, and authoritarian institutions. Happy Independence Day.

2 thoughts on “Freedom and Responsibility

  1. Kirby Martzall

    Coupled with when an individual or group sees only ‘rights’ and does not understanding or seeing ‘obligations’ – freedom and independence and responsibility are not lasting.

  2. Polly Boardman

    Hi Tom, it has been my experience in the corporate world that, when given the freedom – whether it is for unlimited vacation or sick time or for being productive working from home – people rise to the occasion and have that individual responsibility. It becomes a win-win since employees tend to take less vacation or at least aren’t hurrying to take all their vacation at the same time in December to use it or lose it, and employees also seem to work more diligently when working from home. Tying that into social responsibility and the timeliness of your article, authoritarian institutions should not pick and choose which groups of people get to exercise that responsibility and which do not.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.