Blame culture is a description given to an organisation in which people are blamed for mistakes continually. That makes it very difficult to figure out how to break the office blame game mould.

It’s human nature to want to assign blame. Since the dawn of time, we’ve assigned unseen causes to effects that we can’t explain. We even find ways of off-loading blame for our vices (“the devil made me do it!”) and our shortcomings (“it’s just my nature”, “I’m too old to change”).

How to break the office blame game mould
How to break the office blame game mould

For example, I challenge you to watch what happens when a senior colleague detects the mistake. If they ask “Who” (rather than “What” or “How”) you may be seeing evidence of a developing or developed blame culture.

Blame cultures often reflect poor leadership. Dictatorial leaders often resort to blaming others when things go wrong, rather than taking responsibility for all that happens (The Apprentice – yes you are fired!).

Much of this blame-shifting is in the effort to protect ourselves. We don’t like being seen by others as a failure, or as lacking self-control. There are sometimes consequences for failure that affect our job, our family and even our health. We also don’t like to see ourselves as a failure, and we do everything we can to protect our desired self-image. This exposes within ourselves, insecurity, obsessive self-image awareness, selfishness to name a few ugly qualities.

When it enters any organisation, it can become seriously toxic. Things such as;

  • A lack of general accountability
  • Hesitancy to admit mistakes
  • It is never you, everyone else has the problem “syndrome
  • Lack of commitment to excellence, but desire to speed, cutting corners
  • Gossip, whispers in the hallway

Is there a quick fix to this problem if it happens in your office? Every office and environment is unique, complex, after all, we are dealing with people, right? Of course.

However, this contrasts with those in which the problem leading to a mistake is identified and improvements are made.

Beating the blame culture

The opposite of a blame culture is a problem-solving culture. In a problem-solving culture people feel able to offer ideas, highlight issues, put suggestions forward. When something goes wrong, the question is “How did that happen and what can we do about it?

Whether you are the CEO, a manager, team leader or a staff member, be quick to praise, motivating colleagues for what they do well. Be assertive and help colleagues figure out how to do better when things go wrong.

Be ready to constantly self-examine your own actions. “Other people/companies are doing what I am doing with success, so what am I doing wrong that they are getting right”. Be honest, and make the necessary changes. This is one huge way respect is earned amongst your team/peers.

Yes things do go wrong, people make mistakes but if your focus is in the right area, then the environment lightens up, people perform better in the office and are generally more committed.

A large part of aligning that focus comes down to attitude. If your attitude takes a humble slant, then you’ll find that failure is easier to swallow.

Start to look at any failure not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to get better.

All failures are therefore are approached differently from a mental, emotional and physical perspective because you will see the opportunity that the specific failure presents – a chance for you to learn, move on and get better at whatever it is you do or whatever life lesson there is to gain from the experience. Even if it takes several times for it to sink in, you will learn and you will get better. Attitude is everything when it comes to this approach.

Lastly on a personal note; just be great, amazing and healthy at what you do. Don’t aim to be 10% better, aim to be 10 x times better.

Maintain an accurate assessment of your successes and failures so that you can continue growing in your efforts. Self-delusion does you no good.

This article was inspired by conversations with other professionals.

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