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The Blame Game

Optimize Blog - October 23, 2017 - 0 comments

Blame is an interesting concept and often confused with accountability. We find leaders conceptually accepting that mistakes are a learning opportunity but in the work environment they are keen to find out who made the mistake, whose fault it was and determining what the consequences should be for the team or individual. It is easy to apportion blame.
In fact we often come across corporate cultures where blame is accepted and is even the norm. We like to mention one of our favourite terms – ‘blame-storming’. This is the process of getting in a room after a failure and deciding whose fault it was….
However, much like “the dog ate my homework” didn’t work with your grade 10 school teacher, you cannot blame others in the workplace for not getting the result that you may have wanted. Making excuses is just another form of apportioning blame.
If we are to fix this it is first important that we understand why we blame others. Some people simply panic when they lose control of a situation and so they try to restore the sense of being in control by blaming others. Some people try to control others by blaming them and making them feel that they are worth less.
Some people are responsible and accountable for their actions and they take that seriously. Others, with an external focus on control, attribute responsibility to others or factors external to themselves. For some they learned the trait from others – maybe even their parents. If we don’t understand how to take responsibility for our actions or see others not being accountable for theirs, we become like sheep and fall into the trap of copying their bad habits and blame others whenever something goes awry.
Some people can’t admit failures and mistakes so they blame others for them in order to escape from the responsibility and people blame others when they fail to accept something that happened. Had those people learned how to properly accept events they would have never blamed others. Again, by blaming others the helpless person assumes the position of the accuser and feels more in control.
In many organizations, people will pass blame because they are petrified of being put to the sword. Organizations work on consequences. So if people have a hatchet hanging over their heads, they’ll move that hatchet to the next desk or department. Marketing blames the Technical department, which blames Operations which blames the Sales team and so on. There’s nothing rational about it. It’s an irrational way of deflecting responsibility and it means no one is really performing.
Perhaps the main cause of blaming is a lack of self-confidence. When we don’t take responsibility for what’s going on within ourselves, we experience life from a state of being affected by external things. The blaming person doesn’t feel in control of his or her life. Passing the blame to co-workers reflects a lack of emotional maturity.
So people are afraid to make mistakes in case of criticism or firing and that fear obviously inspires people to deflect blame. Organizations can prevent this kind of self-protective behaviour through a “no-blame-no-fault” way of operating. In this scenario, an organization does not fault anyone when things go wrong but rather looks for what went wrong and figures out a way of fixing it and importantly making sure it doesn’t happen again. This is a fundamental for the Learning Organization so the next time you screw up don’t look to apportion blame – use it as an opportunity to learn and to guard against making the same mistake next time…..

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