“Responsibility is when someone holds his head up, when something goes wrong, takes the consequences and then leaves.” Last week, “Blick” quoted Oswald Grübel, former head of UBS and CS. He didn’t know what investment banker and UBS employee Kweku Adoboli was doing, and the bank lost CHF 2.3 billion in 2011. Do you remember? Did Grübel pay the 2.3 billion out of his own pocket? No. The shareholders are bearing the consequences of these and earlier mistakes – a UBS share is still only a shadow of itself. Dividends, bonuses and jobs have been cut. As bosses, Grübel and his predecessors had the responsibility of organizing the company in such a way that something so fatal could not happen. The accumulation of all responsibility with the boss is a paradigm in the economy – and an illusion. A highly dangerous one at that. The result is a “God complex” at the level of the boss. Responsibility is confused with power. And the hubris is not far away.
Our Swiss Code of Obligations transfers overall responsibility in a public limited company to one team: the board of directors.
This group of people is liable in solidarity and personally. That is systematically shared responsibility. Each is jointly liable for the other. By law, our boards of directors have long lived an organizational form that is now being introduced in some companies through self-organization methods such as holacracy. “Swisscom without bosses” is a famous headline. The reactions from outside to shared responsibility are massive. “If no one says what needs to be done, chaos breaks out.” No one trusts the other to act responsibly for the greater good. Families, associations, voluntary organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises are living examples of what seems unthinkable in the big economy: shared responsibility, a sense of community and commitment to the cause. But beware! Self-organization and self-responsibility come at a high price: there is no more room for victims who blame the more powerful.