The I Don’t Own It Principle & How It Can Save You From A Lot of Grief At Work

Marcy Pedersen, MBA
5 min readFeb 4, 2020
Photo credit: sam.d on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

I knew the chair of the team wasn’t going to come through. I knew it because he never showed up to project meetings on time, would show up late, never read an email I sent, and displayed passive aggressive tendencies. Which means he didn’t speak up in meetings and when talking to him one on one he would simply shut down. He would get mad and say that’s it. So when the boss came by to say there were already problems with him being the chair of the new team I wasn’t surprised.

I was asked to be a possible facilitator. Also known as a crutch. Sure I can help. I’ll just come in and facilitate as if I was an outside entity. A half hour later they said they didn’t need me. He decided he wanted to give it a go by himself. Pretty sure some more passive aggressive games, but okay. I said sure. I won’t get involved unless you ask me to. They were afraid of what? That I would stick my nose in where it didn’t belong. I won’t touch it. No worries. The boss left and I went back to my work.

The I Don’t Own It Principle

As a caveat, I am an own everything type of person. As a typical obsessive compulsive I like to do things over and over again. I don’t just eat some yogurt. I eat it every day for a year or until it makes me physically sick. I am at the physically sick part right now. So I don’t just do things. I own them. I had an epiphany once about a type of counseling. I fell in love with it, ordered books about it, and later got a degree in it. I couldn’t just like it or believe in it. I had to get a degree in it. Even that didn’t satisfy my appetite for more. So when you set me on a task I quickly take ownership of it. It becomes personal because I spend an obsessive amount of time on it.

Taking ownership of things can cause a lot of trouble when people want to critique and change what we have created or invested in. We can become defensive and obstinate towards change. All things which don’t help us achieve positive results. These attitudes can complicate simple processes and create obstacles that shouldn’t exist. All because we have taken ownership and defend something that isn’t truly ours.

I led a project at a company that I don’t own concerning I process I don’t participate in. My expertise is in…

Marcy Pedersen, MBA

Writer, process improvement guru, analyst, life-long learner, and obsessed about improving life and work processes. Connect at