Today I thought we'd have a chat about blame, and how disruptive it is.We go through school, being asked "who is responsible for this?" "who is to blame for that?" Years of conditioning that teach us we are safe as long as we aren't the one to blame. Years of learning to hide, to keep a low profile and to make sure that we aren't blamed in error or blamed deliberately in order to cover up someone else's bad behaviour.
You might even have been on the receiving end of blame at home, where siblings 'dobbed you in' or blamed you for their misdemeanours.
The result, whenever you're confronted as an adult with something that hasn't gone to plan you immediately start working out how to save your skin, or how avoid being the one who gets the blame.
There are two ways that we use blame; we blame ourselves or we blame others. Some people automatically blame themselves for everything, irrespective of whether or not they had nothing to do with how things turned out. If you're someone who automatically blames others when things go wrong, you might even do this when you know for sure you were the one who made the mistake. You might even blame the universe or a higher power if you can't find another person to pin it on, rather than accepting responsibility. Yes, it can be that knee-jerk a reaction.
Today's Life Changing Thought is: There Is Never A Good Time For Blame
The knee jerk reaction to blame someone else, anyone else at any cost, is a defence mechanism. We deploy blame when we feel under threat. It's how we preserve our self esteem.
The patterns of blame that we learn growing up can get us in to all sorts of problems once we're grown up and in the world of work. Employers are less interested in who is to blame and more interested in what you, your team or your department is going to DO to fix the problem. Blame acts like a smoke screen, it obscures the real issues and it prevents timely progress being made.
A blame culture at work can result in people taking fewer risks or using their initiative less. This is because fear of being blamed for mistakes will act as a deterrent to creativity. It is also more likely that mistakes will be hidden in organisations with a blame culture, with potentially catastrophic results.
If you find yourself looking for someone to blame, or navigating a blame culture where you work when all you want to do is fix the problem try the following options:
- Set an example by taking ownership of problems. This is not the same as saying "it is all my fault" rather, it's about saying that you will see that the problem gets fixed, and then taking action on that promise.
- Don't fall in to blaming others. Learn to listen.
- Encourage an open forum for discussing problems so that mistakes are seen as part of the process. In this way you will foster support and encourage people to share mistakes for the benefit of everyone's progress.
- Focus on what's ahead, the steps that you (or your team/department) can take, the outcome you're aiming for. Look to the future.
- Don't be tempted to dwell on what's already happened. Yes it might be appropriate to do a review but see that as a way to find the fault, rather than uncover the person behind the fault. Fault finding is NOT about finding the person to blame, it's about finding the problem, the bit that went wrong.