Blamestorming

Blamestorming

“How was the meeting?”

“Total blamestorm”

I think we’ve all been in those meetings where the whole point seems to be finding someone to blame; what might start as a reasonable question can become acrimonious, with accusations hurled across the room. This is blamestorming.

Here’s why it’s a waste of time.

When we spend time focusing on who did it, and how to punish them we do not solve the problem for the customer. So there is an immediate impact on one customer, and the longer their issue remains unresolved the more people they’re likely to tell.

But there’s a bigger downside.

Every time we focus on blaming someone we put all team members on the defensive, we make them cautious – even suspicious. Individuals are far less likely to come forward following future “screw ups”. Errors become something to be hushed up, hidden, and suppressed. Potentially they remain unsolved. The culture in the team or organisation becomes increasingly vicious over time.

When we focus on errors made, and punishing those errors, we lessen chance of initiative taking, and chances of innovation.

I can remember going into my boss and saying “I have made a mistake – here’s how I want to fix it, are you happy with that approach?”  Boss’s reaction was to ask a couple of questions, pledge support, and thank me for telling her – perfect response and I’ve modelled my approach on hers.

My working assumption, and it applies to more issues than this, people want to do the right thing. When something big goes wrong at work the first thing we should do is fix it for the customer, then examine what went wrong – with the goal of preventing it happening again. If there are legal repercussions we need to find out who was responsible, but most often “how do we fix this” is far more important than “who did this”. Obviously if your working assumption turns out to be wrong, and you do have a colleague who is deliberately doing the wrong thing you must escalate, and go into investigation mode – and work through appropriate HR and legal processes.

I’m not suggesting that we should abdicate responsibility for our actions, I’m stating that looking for someone to blame as your starting point is counterproductive and bad for the work culture. Go for trusting your colleagues, and working towards solutions.

Image; Storm Clouds Gathering  |  Zooey  |  CC BY SA 2.0

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