How to Break the Office Blame Game Mould

Who fault is it?  Should time be spent finding fault, or finding solutions?

Who fault is it? Should time be spent finding fault, or finding solutions?

Blame culture is a description given to an organisation in which people are blamed for mistakes.

It’s human nature to want to assign blame. Since the dawn of time we’ve assigned unseen causes to effects that we can’t explain. We even find ways of off-loading blame for our vices (the devil made me do it!) and our shortcomings (it’s just my nature).

For example, see what happens when a senior person detects the mistake. If they ask “Who” (rather than “What” or “How”) you may be seeing evidence of a blame culture.

Blame cultures often reflect poor leadership. Autocratic leaders often resort to blaming others when things go wrong, rather than taking responsibility for all that happens (does The Apprentice spring to mind? Yes you are fired!).

toxicMuch of this blame-shifting is in the effort to protect ourselves. We don’t like being seen by others as a failure, or as lacking self-control. There are sometimes consequences for failure that affect our job, our family and even our health. We also don’t like to see ourselves as a failure, and we do everything we can to protect our desired self-image.  This exposes within ourselves, insecurity, obsessive self-image awareness, selfishness to name a few ugly qualities.

When it enters any organisation, it can become seriously toxic. Things such as;

  • A lack of general accountability
  • Hesitancy to admit mistakes
  • It is never you, everyone else has the problem “syndrome
  • Lack of commitment to excellence, but desire to speed, cutting corners
  • Gossip, whispers in the hallway

Is there a quick fix to this problem if it happens in your office?  Every office and environment is unique, complex, after all we are dealing with people right? Of course.

However, this contrasts with those in which the problem leading to a mistake is identified and improvements are made.

You can beat the Blame Culture

The opposite of a blame culture is a problem solving culture. In a problem solving culture people feel able to offer ideas, highlight issues, put suggestions forward. When something goes wrong, the question is “How did that happen and what can we do about it?”

Whether you are a boss – the head honcho, a manager or a staff member, be quick to praise colleagues for what they do right.  Be assertive and help colleagues figure out how to do better when things go wrong.

Be ready to constantly self-examine your own actions. “Other people/companies are trying what I am doing, so what am I doing wrong that they are getting right”.  Be honest, and make the necessary changes. This is one huge way respect is earned amongst your team/peers.

Yes things do go wrong, people make mistakes but if your focus is in the right area, then the environment lightens up, people perform better in the office and are generally more committed.

Lastly on a personal note; just be great, amazing and healthy at what you do. Don’t aim to be 10% better, aim to be 10 x times better.

Maintain an accurate assessment of your successes and failures so that you can continue growing in your efforts. Self-delusion does you no good.

2 Comments

  1. This is spot on. It’s a hard habit to break but it you look at the what and the how it is possible. Everyone makes mistakes, owning them is what is necessary and then moving on!

    Thank you for this reminder Desi.

  2. Tony Sanchez says:

    When things go wrong does everyone play the blame game? Blaming someone else, blaming circumstances, the tools… or the self-blame game…. Is there anything to gain by his action? Things can and do go wrong.. why is it so hard to just accept that without wanting to blame? Does blame make us feel more in control or more out of control? Do you blame other people, circumstances, the tools or yourself when things go wrong?

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