Are you playing the victim?

Through my many discussions with pharmacists, I invariably speak to two types of people. People who see reality for what it is and are looking to take ownership and action. Or, people who are looking to blame others and are waiting for someone else to fix the problem.

This, while seemingly a simplistic view of a complex situation, can be explained by introducing the Accountability Ladder.

The Accountability Ladder

The Accountability Ladder

In the middle of the ladder, there is a red line. Below this line are victim behaviours. People who sit below the line have the mentality that ‘things happen to them’. Like most things, the accountability ladder operates as a scale, meaning that the further down the ladder they sit, the more powerless they are to take ownership or action.  If people sit above the line they demonstrate accountable behaviours. They have the mindset that ‘things happen because of them’. These people take ownership of their reality and their thoughts and empower themselves to influence the situation at hand.

The Accountability Ladder Language

To help identify where you or someone sits on the accountability ladder, you can begin by listening to their language. If we use the example of implementing a new service, here is how you might hear people talk, depending on the rung where they sit:

Get on with it: “We’ve reviewed the options, we’re going to delegate Sarah as a store champion, write some procedures, upskill everyone so they are comfortable talking about the service and start with offering it one day per week within the month.”

Find Solutions: “I wonder what it would take to get this off this service actioned? Let’s have a brainstorming session.”

Own it: “Yes we’re busy, yes we don’t have the skills yet but if we work at it, we can find a solution.”

Acknowledge reality: “We’re busy and don’t have the skills yet but this is the future of pharmacy.”

Wait and hope: “Hopefully we find another staff member. Maybe the 8CPA will make it easier to roll out and fund.”

Excuses: “It’s too busy. We don’t have the time to upskill everyone.”

Blame others: “The staff we have won’t do it. If I had a better team I would.”

Unaware: “What we’re doing is ok, there is no need to change.”

The Impact

Susan Scott said ‘Culture is not some nebulous force, it is made up of you and me’. In terms of accountability, where the majority of people sit on the ladder will determine the adaptability and speed at which you can implement, pivot and adjust. If the team culture is that things happen to you, you will hear ruminating, living in the past and very little (if any) future-focused conversation. If the team culture is things happen because of you, the conversation will be geared toward understanding the present and optimising the future.

As you can see, by ensuring your culture is made up of people with accountable behaviours, you exponentially increase the influence your team has on outcomes.

How do I move myself and others up the ladder?

As is the case in so many challenges we face, the answer lies in emotional intelligence. To move both ourselves and others up the ladder we need to shift towards the productive states of all the emotional intelligence competencies. The more time we spend in the present states, the more accountable we inevitably are.

To help shift yourself and others, ask yourself these questions and use them to provoke thought in others:


  • Where do you or the person in question sit on the ladder?
  • Do you or others behave in a way that is consistent with what you expect of others?
  • How are my behaviours influencing others?

Awareness of others

  • Do you notice when someone is slipping down the ladder, how do you respond?
  • Do you consider the perspective of others and check for accuracy?


  • Do you express thoughts and feelings in a way that is sensitive to others?
  • Do you engage in open debate?
  • How do you respond when challenged?

Self Management

  • How well do you manage your emotions in difficult situations?
  • How well do you demonstrate a positive attitude?
  • How quickly do you adapt to new circumstances?

Emotional Reasoning

  • Do you consult others before you make a decision?
  • Do you involve others in decisions that affect their work?

Positive Influence

  • Do you provide constructive feedback on behaviour?
  • How do you notice and address when others slide down the ladder?
  • How do you notice and address when others step up the ladder?

By exploring these questions, you will be able to identify and then address how well you and others accept reality and if you and others need to begin climbing the ladder. If you and those around you, sit at the top of the ladder, great! Empower them to help others identify where they sit and support them on their climb.

Remember though, everyone is different and everyone will sit somewhere different. So come to these questions with an open mind and heart. Shifting someone from ‘blaming others’ to ‘getting on with it’ will be a process. Aim to climb the ladder with them one rung at a time. A scramble to the top is unsustainable.

Where do I start?

Great question! Start with expanding self-awareness. It’s hard to know if you’re going in the right direction if you don’t know where you are. Question yourself and question others. Ask questions that start with ‘what’ rather than ‘why’. ‘What rung do you think you sit on?’ is a great place to start. Whatever response you receive, start there and explore the answer. Once explored, consider the next question, ‘what would it take to move you up the ladder?’

If you would like an Accountability Ladder for your staff room, you can download a printable here.

Equip your team with the meaningful skills that will help them move up the ladder and be accountable and help others to do so, send them along to the Expanding Team Capacity Webinar Series. Doors close on 16 April 2024. Don’t miss this powerful, pharmacy specific, cost-effective introduction to emotional intelligence tools that will equip your team to solidify or optimise the culture of your workplace.

Expanding Team Capacity Webinar Series

I invite you and your team to join me and learn five core elements for expanding team capacity.

Pharmacies face ongoing changes and challenges that demand CPD solutions beyond clinical training. Our series goes beyond the norm, addressing critical challenges that derail teams and prevent growth such as:

  • Staff conflict
  • Misunderstandings from poor (or non-existent) communication
  • Unconscious bias and the stories staff tell themselves
  • Reluctance to change
Never miss a thing. Get tools, tips and offers delivered direct to your inbox.
Sharing is caring...

Leave a Comment

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