Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Leaders have the power to create or eliminate a culture that supports blame.

If an error is discovered, or some process, client service, or meeting doesn’t go well at work, it’s natural for anyone near the epicenter of the glitch to immediately proclaim that it wasn’t his/her fault. However, in workplaces where finger-pointing is an acceptable practice, creativity, innovation, personal initiative, and growth can easily be stifled.

In my experience, blaming is supported in environments where errors are treated as failures instead of opportunities to learn and apply new strategies for future success. In this situation, employees who make mistakes are often treated with a punitive attitude or consequence.

If you’re a leader, here are a couple of immediate strategies you can apply to minimize and eventually eliminate a culture that enables blaming:

– Instead of using language or an approach that basically says, “Who is responsible for this?,” say: “Let’s talk about how we can avoid this happening in the future.” Then give people an organized opportunity to come up with solution-oriented recommendations for damage control, if necessary, and/or doing it differently the next time.
– While addressing the problem, state that regardless of who or what was to blame for the error, you trust that the intent was to produce a quality product, process, or service. (Of course, it’s important that you’re genuine with this statement, and if you’re unable to be genuine about this, you have more complex issues to tend to.)

Blaming others creates obstacles to continuous improvement and effective change management. Whether you lead a small team, a department, or an organization, if blaming is an issue in your environment and you genuinely want that to change, applying these two strategies is a great start.


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