Blame culture: Six steps to remove it from your business

Blame culture is one of the most toxic attitudes to have in a business.

In this blog post, I’ll share why it’s so damaging. Plus, I’ll give you six steps you can use to overcome the culture of blame. So you can have a healthier and happier team.

Three reasons blame culture kills companies.

1. Destroys teamwork.

Team members who point fingers at each other, stop being there for each other. They shy away from their teammates, turning their backs on others, to protect themselves from the horrid finger of blame.

Sadly, teams infected with blame, aren’t really teams, just a collection of individuals, who are protecting their own interests, and working towards their own goals.

2. Prevents innovation

Businesses that want to stay relevant, need to stay innovative.

But who does the innovation? Team members. However, team members only take on the challenge of innovation, when they feel the balance of risk and reward lies in their favour. If they feel, that they will be shot down, every time they stumble, they’ll stop putting their hands up, they’ll stop stepping into the breach of innovation.

Put simply, companies that foster blame shoot themselves in the foot, by undermining the confidence of team members and preventing innovation from happening.

3. Mistakes are repeated

What’s worse than a project going over budget, over schedule, or being at risk of failure?

The mistake that caused those issues being repeated.

Sadly, teams that focus on blame rather than learning are likely to repeat the mistakes of past projects again and again and again.

You might think… I’m being dramatic, but I’ve personally witnessed industries and companies that are consumed by finger pointing, lose millions of pounds because they’re more consumed by who’s at fault, than learning important lessons from mistakes — so they’re not repeated.

What fuels the blame?

There are many reasons people start to point fingers, here’s a few of them.

  • To avoiding taking responsibility
  • To not look bad in the eyes of others
  • To maintain the appearance of being in control
  • Fear of job loss or financial penalty
  • They can’t control their emotions. They release them by blaming other people.

So how do you deal with culture of finger pointing?

Here are six steps that will help you tackle blame culture:

1) Raise your awareness – look out for symptoms of blame culture within your team.

If you’re hearing things like these at work…

“Robert said he would do that”

“Tara was supposed to care of that”

“That’s what Mohan told me to do”

It’s time to take action and tackle blame culture within your team. It’s time to replace blame with positive ownership.

2) Foster a culture of Positive Ownership in your business

The idea here is to make your business a place where it’s OK for people to take risks and be accountable. Indeed, members of high performance teams seek out responsibility, and are rewarded for doing so.

(☞ Top Tip — Owning a mistake can be rewarding, it frees you from the burden of perfection, and earns you the respect, trust and appreciation of others).

Blame culture makes the positive ownership difficult because if someone doesn’t immediately have the answer, they’re shamed without being given a chance to learn or grow from mistakes.

(Aside: Ownership is a key module in our Training System for teams.)

3) Replace finger pointing with team learning

When things go wrong, the team should be encouraged to gather, have healthy conversations, and learn from their mistakes.

How to do it?

Learning Workshops

The goal of these workshops is to help the teams learn and problem-solve. They do this by having open discussions so that they can learn from their mistakes and obstacles.

For these workshops to succeed they must:

  • Have a clear agenda that is focused on the one mistake/lesson/problem
  • The leader needs to set a positive and constructive tone
  • Focused on learning, not blame
  • Ensure everyone gets a chance to talk
  • Generate actionable steps

In the beginning, leaders will probably need to attend all of these workshops, but as the team get stronger, they should be able to run some of them independently.

4) Assign responsibility appropriately.

Sometimes tasks and projects fall through the cracks… “I thought Sandra was taking care of that”.

It happens to all of us.

However, smart leaders know not to let these situations happen again. They make sure that people are assigned to tasks and they make it clear who is responsible for each task in the future.

Giving absolute clarity about who owns a task isn’t some backhanded way of assigning blame, it’s simply making sure people know who should be taking action next time.

5) Have an open door policy

The leader should make it easy and comfortable for team members to report mistakes and problems. For this to succeed, the leader needs to remind team members that…

Their door is open no matter what has happened

It’s best to be honest and open about mistakes

People don’t get punished for owning mistakes

“I’m here to help you reach your potential, not to give you a dressing down”

Remember, people don’t want to be seen as the problem. So ensure your conversation focuses on how the task/project can be performed better. Not on how good or bad they’re doing as an individual.

When people know that you’re a caring and supportive leader, they’re more likely to seek help, and your business is more likely to succeed.

6) Train your team

There’s a big gap between where our schooling ends, and what we could achieve if we better able to regulate ourself and our personal performance.

Sadly, it’s a gap that’s filled with poor self-image, insecurity, untrained emotions, worrying-too-much, old-fashioned ideas — and a tonne of other negative habits and mindsets.

If you want your team to unlock their true potential and move beyond the culture of blame, you have two choices:

  1. Either train them (and yourself)
  2. Hope that things will just improve by themselves

When you invest in the training of your team, you’ll see real, measurable improvements.

If you’re serious about the first option, we can help you. We have proven methods for improving team performance. And we’re happy to share them with you.

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