Understanding The Blame Game

Understanding The Blame Game by Violet Dhu

The blame game is a situation in which one party blames others for something bad, a mistake or something unfortunate rather than attempting to seek a solution. Blame is one-sided and is not about trying to understand what happened.

Unfortunately, the blame game is far too prevalent in organisations and teams today. Nobody wants to be caught out, or be seen as inadequate, so we shift the blame. The blame game has a significant negative impact on team performance and workplace culture.

Here are 4 ideas to help you better understand the Blame Game and this will hopefully reduce the apportioning of blame when something goes wrong in your workplace.

  1. Things do go wrong and there are lessons to be learnt.

Mistakes, poor decisions, and unexpected outcomes occur daily in the workplace. And these mistakes are opportunities to learn, a chance to change and to improve. And this can be both at the individual level (training or upskilling) and at the systems level (new policies or procedures). Blaming someone will shift the focus away from solving the problem and from learning from it. The lesson or improvement opportunity becomes lost, as we blame someone.

  1. The workplace is a complex system to which we all contribute.

Rather than blaming others or pointing the finger, we can ask what happened here, and how did I contribute to this mistake or error occurring. Similar to arguments, misunderstandings and disagreements, where we normally have contributed in some way, when things go wrong, we may have also contributed. Very rarely do things occur in total isolation. So ask yourself, how may have I contributed to his mistake. A workplace that is characterised by the Blame Game and where blaming others is normalised, is a very toxic workplace

  1. The Difference between WHO and WHY

The blame game focuses on who caused the problem, rather than why the problem occurred. Focusing on who rather than why, will result in missing the learning opportunities or the process improvement opportunities. And focusing on the who will cause anger, distrust, frustration, and resentment from the person receiving all the blame.

  1. Company culture and team culture is negatively impacted by the Blame Game. 

The culture shifts when people own problems, support each other, are honest and take some ownership.  When we say “sorry I think I mucked up” or “what can I do to help fix this” we are taking responsibility. And these attitudes completely shift the focus from blaming each other to mutual respect, honesty, collaboration and a positive workplace culture. And this positive culture is needed for collaboration, innovation, creativity and when trying out new ideas. 

Rather than looking to blame someone, focus on the WHY, not the WHO and use it as a learning opportunity for everyone. Eliminating the blame game results in a better workplace culture where people are more supportive and collaborative when things go wrong, or problems arise. Don’t be party to the Blame Game.

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