I voted this week. We only had one city council person, a couple of school board people and some judges to vote on. Not a big election. I’m a big believer in individual responsibility, so I vote in them all, small and large. My husband and I wore our “I voted” stickers around and talked to the kids about voting.

I realize that individual responsibility is largely a Western philosophy. So, humor me for a moment. Taking the time to vote isn’t unlike investing the time to lead a new team at work, research a new initiative, create a business case for something that would meet a business need. It’s proactive individual responsibility. It’s engagement.

With more than half of employees not actively engaged in their jobs, it’s no wonder the voting base is unengaged too. In the big election in 2008, 64% turned out to vote. Last year’s report by Blessing White showed that just 29% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs. What connection might there be between these numbers?

For example, I have a colleague who has a team member who is unengaged. The team member doesn’t even see things that need fixing. When he receives a specific order to fix something, he will. It just may take a few years to get done – even small improvements. He’s not driven to success, lead, or learn. Why can’t our organizations be brave enough to cut these folks loose? I wonder if this fellow voted this week. I bet not.

Individual responsibility (whether in voting or at work) isn’t just about the individual. Think about the challenge created for the rest of the team by keeping this unengaged employee who doesn’t buy in to individual responsibility. The other team members pick up the slack, work around him, make excuses for him, or fail to pursue appropriate strategies anticipating he’ll make implementation difficult.

Now, the whole team is affected. Not unlike another political challenge on the current plate: healthcare reform. True healthcare reform really boils down to individual responsibility. By focusing 100% of the reform energy on the wayward insurance industry and utterly ignoring the issue of individual responsibility, we risk missing the fix, but negatively affecting the entire team.

As with engagement, part of the healthcare issue is about providing the right information, incentives and support to just understand. A recent Cigna survey showed that  “one in five Americans finds making health care decisions more difficult than sitting in rush hour traffic, travelling with small children, going on a job interview and preparing their taxes.” Perhaps as with driving engagement and voter turnout, we need to begin with the right information. And of course, an emphasis on individual responsibility.