Stop Playing the Blame Game

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December 30, 2010

Sanders!  Where is that presentation I told you I needed by noon today?

Uh, sir…..I was going to have that ready for you but Bob Smith over in marketing didn’t get me the images I needed yet.

Sanders, I told YOU to have it ready!!

Um, but sir, I was trying my hardest.  I also had some issues with our connectivity and couldn’t get PowerPoint to load properly on my pc.

Sanders, you always blame others for your deficiencies.  YOU’RE FIRED!

Who’s to blame?

All too often, something goes wrong at work and the finger-pointing begins.  It doesn’t really matter what the circumstances are.  It doesn’t even really matter who the players are.  What matters is that once a problem arises, everyone falls into the CYA mode.  This reaction is quite natural and is detailed in attribution theory, a social psychology theory developed by Heider, Kelley, Jones, Ross, and Weiner.  When we are successful, we attribute those results to ourselves and a very positive, internal locus of control.  When we fail or a situation fails, we attribute those results to others and external factors.

How to stop blaming others

Show some empathy. We are not perfect and should not expect perfection from others.   In fact, we know deep down that blaming someone who we think “did it” does not help correct the situation.  Think about that horrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you realize you screw up.  Now, imagine you’re the other person.  Offer to help him/ her out of the hole they just dug.

What if you really are the culprit

Own up. It’s always better to own up to a mistake before your boss or someone else notices.  Once you realize you could have done something better or differently, let your boss know.  Explain that you realize you made the mistake and that you should have done xyz instead.  Then, have a proposed solution ready.  If you are in over your head, admit it and ask for their advice on correcting the situation.

Start a tradition to head off the need for blame

Take the lead. We all know that having a strong offense is the best defense.  With that in mind, start a department tradition where everyone knows that the blame game is not allowed.  When someone new joins the department, make sure they are told.  Once you have your team on the same page that everyone deserves support, you’ll find that you spend much less time dealing with the bickering among employees and much more time coming up with solid solutions when problems arise.
By actively working to change the tendency to blame, we’ll be part of a more productive workplace.  What do you think?  Do you see blame and finger pointing at work?  How do you address it as a leader?

3 Comments

  • Trish – happy holidays to you and your family! think we all see this happen unfortunately.
    When I see it happening, I ask everyone to step back and answer a few simple questions:

    – did XXX person wake up in the morning hoping to screw up? doubt it
    – where all deadlines and expectations clear? doubt it
    – ultimately, if the work is assigned to you, you are the captain of the work, own it
    – I also ask – would you want some one blaming you and rolling you under the bus?

    does not always work, but helps!

    take care

  • Trish,
    Great article and you covered a lot of truths in it. People have a hard time owning up to their mistakes. A lot of time it is the culture of the environment that they are in. As you mentioned, you have to nip it in the bud and let your people know that ownership and accountability are paramount. I recently wrote an article about failure and how to handle it from a leadership point of view. http://voicesofleadership.blogspot.com/2010/12/after-failure-now-what.html Thanks again for your article and time, it is appreciated.

    Happy New year with many blessings,
    Greg

  • Awesome. Owning responsibility for your current sitution is a tremendous key to improvement. Reminds me of the famous statement “The buck stops here”. Also, there’s a quote in Napoleon Hill’s book, something along the lines of “Success only begins when you are prepared to look in the mirror and take full responsibiliy for all your previous failures”.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.

HR HAPPY HOUR LIVE! TALENT ACQUISITION & ONBOARDING

THE FUTURE OF WORK

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