They’re wrong! – investigating blame and knowing our triggers
Have you ever had reason to blame someone else?
We have all from time to time, had reason to believe that if someone had done something differently, the outcome would have been rosy. Or, we believe that someone else’s actions, what they have said or done is the reason we feel bad, or sad, or angry!
Over time, this creates a ‘blame culture’. A culture of habitual blaming, sometimes over small and insignificant matters, sometimes over bigger, more important events.
I call it ‘the grenade approach’. When we throw the grenade into someone else’s bunker in the hope that when it blows, we’ll be in the clear. We are all guilty of doing this to some degree. That is because when we are under threat, our ego is triggered and our ego is geared around self protection. It will endeavour to find ways and means to justify our actions and manipulate others into believing that we are right. It is so clever at doing this, that even we believe it!
There are two key ways that we can develop a blame-free culture.
- Systemically – as an organisation we need to understand that mistakes happen, and when they do, we need to be objective and address the source of the problem. Rather than chastising or criticising, or pointing out the wrong doing, we have to identify the cause and ensure the correct processes/training/measures are in place to avoid a future occurrence.
- Individually – we need to help our staff develop an alternative to blame and give them the motivation to change
What if we took blame out of it altogether? Would we all stop caring? Perhaps this is the fear, that without someone to blame, there would be no responsibility or accountability.
What if instead, we looked inside for accountability and responsibility? So when a mistake occurs, rather than the grenade approach, what would happen if we measured how personally accountable we were for that mistake?
In the case when an employee was to carry out a task and they failed to do so, before calling the employee in for a meeting to discuss where they went wrong, the manager would review whether he or she had ensured the employee had received the appropriate training and enough supervision. They would review whether they had given the employee all the information they needed in order for them to carry out the task correctly. Whether they understood the wider picture and how it fitted in with the strategy. Did they understand the timescales? Did the employee have the skill and motivation required for the task? Were they emotionally equipped? If not, what can the manager do to be sure they are fully prepared for the next task?
The employee would review their part in the mistake. Did they ask enough questions before tackling the task? Did they understand what they needed to, why and by when? Did they have enough time for the task, and if not, what support could they have arranged?
It makes much more sense to review a mistake in this way. Conversations where each party actively accepts their own liability are more powerful and more purposeful.
This also leads to an overall reduction in mistakes, because the focus would be on the real cause of the mistake, because there would be no motivation to hide the truth.
When under threat of criticism, blame or ridicule, our reactive brain kicks in and any response we make is geared around self-preservation or self-provision, rather than at objective problem resolution. We justify our actions. We blame the system, the technology, someone else. We will find no end of excuses. It is not that we are bad people, we are just human.
Next time something happens at work and you feel the urge to blame someone or something else, test out the theory.
Make a list of as many things as possible that you did to contribute to the problem and as many ways you can think of that you could have done differently. Think about the who, or the what that is the focus of your blame, and really examine your part – taking on the full responsibility and making them blame-free. Once you have clarity, establish any resources you might need to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
Next, arrange to meet with your manager and share the situation, what you have learnt and what you are going to do differently. If you need resources, make your request confidently, in the knowledge that it would make for better standards, more efficient work practises etc…
Another way to practise this, if you aren’t ready to risk trying it out at work, is at home. If you have an argument with your partner, or parent or child, take a moment to cool off and go through the process of taking full responsibility eg:
14 year old boy fails to do his homework. Parent returns from work to find him hunched over a playstation and loses their temper. After which, they think it through…
- I became angry when he didn’t do his homework
- I told him he was lazy
- I was critical
- I don’t think he knows why homework is important to him
- We aren’t around when he comes home from school
- He has been left to his own devices
- The snacks available are biscuits and cake with fizzy drinks
So, in this case, the conversation with the son would include:
- I am really sorry for losing my temper with you over your homework. I criticised you and called you lazy which is unkind and untrue and I feel horrible that I did that.
- Can we talk about the purpose of homework? It is something that has to be done. And there are good reasons for it that you might not understand.
- I realise we are at work when you come home and it is so easy to switch off after a day at school, but it is not healthy for you to spend your time on the playstation. Even when I am not at home, I care greatly about you.
- I’d like to help you to plan a schedule after school, so that you can be sure to get your homework, reading and piano practice in, as well as chill out time.
- Let’s plan for the playstation to be a cool addition to your life, rather than taking it over altogether.
To find out more about focusing on trust rather than blame, call Lucy Windsor on 01932 888885 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org