The Blame Game: Why it Happens and How Employees Should Handle it

Drop the ball. Pass the buck. Finger-pointing. Or my favorite, “Throw them under the bus.” All of this has to do with BLAME. But why does it happen among professionals in the workplace? What can corporations and organizations do to stop it and rebuild trust among team members?

Typically blame occurs when there is a lack of accountability, lack of understanding of what is expected from the team member or organization, and/or a breakdown in communications. Most of the time, people feel threatened that something terrible is going to happen to them if they admit they made a mistake. Their ego doesn’t allow them any flexibility when it comes to sorrow or humility. And take it from me, it is humbling when you make a mistake at work AND another team member blasts you so hard you feel the blow-back over the phone or you feel like all the air has been taken out of your sails.

So what is the typical answer? Someone on the team gets fired, demoted, or demoralized. It is all swept under the rug and a tidy bow is put on the package…and that package’s name is JOHN DOE. The team doesn’t have confidence in him any longer and management might as well put a bullseye on his back. But is John Doe really responsible for the mess your organization is in or is there a bigger reason this happened?

Usually, there is a bigger reason and most likely it isn’t just one person that is responsible for the loss of business, product defect, or upset customer. Something went wrong along the way and now it is time to figure out what really happened and work on ways to improve employee motivation.

Here are some constructive ways to get to the bottom of the problem and work toward better solutions:

  • If you made a mistake, put your EGO in your back pocket, and admit it. Be willing to accept the consequences. After you say you are sorry, sit there and take it. Listen for ways to fix the problem. Be humble. And then, work toward a solution that will benefit all parties.
  • If you know who made the mistake, talk to that person privately. Ask questions and try to look at the problem through their point of view. Maybe you were not clear on what you wanted or needed. Perhaps the person had something earth-shattering happen in their life that took their focus off their work. Compassion, understanding, and the willingness to work together to solve the problem or issue are going to set your organization apart. You may also want to consider trust building activities to help rebuild morale that may have been damaged.
  • If you, your team, or organization is being blamed for something you did not do, try and understand why this is happening. Believe it or not, this requires a high degree of restraint because now you know for sure you did not create the problem. But what if you went to the person that is blaming you and said “What can we do to resolve this issue?” No posturing, just looking forward rather than looking back.

For me, Blame is giving your power away to someone else. It’s a victim stance.  In the workplace, blame creates a tough working environment and lots of negative energy. Rather than “throwing someone under the bus”, try and work as a team to help create an environment of open communication and respect!

Do you accept the challenge of kicking out blame in the workplace?

Fun Team Building based in Atlanta can help your organization build fun and productive teams! Give owner Larry Lipman a call at 770.333.3303 to help your company or nonprofit stop the “Blame Game”!

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