What is the difference between accountability and responsibility?


Accountability and responsibility are usually interchangeable words, with accountability referring to being answerable to a higher authority and responsibility having to do with a sense of duty.

The definitions of accountability and responsibility heavily overlap, with only a few exceptions. For example, someone in management may be accountable to his organization for the actions of his subordinate, even if he is not personally responsible for those actions; however, he is still responsible in a general sense. Similarly, responsibility is used in a moral sense; someone might say that he feels morally responsible for certain events, even if they were out of his control. The phrase "moral accountability" is rarely used, usually in a theistic sense; the speaker of the phrase believes that someone is accountable to God for certain actions. Accountability is used when referring to someone whose job it is to explain or justify things; for example, in the wake of a major disaster, a corporate or government official may be accountable to the public. "Responsible to the public" has a more general meaning, and it is less frequently used than "accountable to the public." Compounding the problem, the two similar words are frequently misused in place of one another.

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