Stop the blame game.
Imagine this scenario: You and your team spend weeks putting together a presentation to bring in a big new client for your company. But the presentation doesn't go well, and the potential client walks away.
A few days later, you and your team answer questions from senior-level management – and the blame begins. It starts with "Well, this presentation topic wasn't MY idea," and it quickly moves on to "I think Susan should have organized the slides better."
Before you know it, an hour has gone by – and the team is still going in circles, trying to figure out who's at fault, and why.
Have you ever played "the blame game"? It's all too common in the workplace. While it's important to look at – and learn from – mistakes, it's also critical that we don't get caught up in whose fault it is.
Sorting through a messy situation should always come first. Once you deal with the situation, then you can begin the process of figuring out what went wrong. Pointing the finger of blame is rarely constructive.
In the above scenario, wouldn't it have been much better for the team to sit down and discuss what happened? They could have figured out what the client really wanted, what the team did well, and what the team didn't do well. And they could have learned from the situation, instead of spending all their time and energy blaming someone for what went wrong.
We'll show you why playing the blame game doesn't help, how to identify when you or your team is playing the game, and how to move on and learn from the situation.
Pointing the finger of blame is usually easy. Why? Because it's natural to want to defend ourselves. And while the blame game often involves pointing fingers at many different people, it's easy to start scapegoating – putting all the blame on one person or group, when the failure really happened somewhere else, or when the problem has many different sources. People may start scapegoating when they don't want to take responsibility for a mistake or action, or when they want to move attention away from themselves.
Scapegoating can have many negative effects. The most damaging are the humiliation, criticism, and loss of self-esteem felt by the victim. Scapegoating can also damage the integrity of other team members who witness it, especially if they do nothing to stop it.
And what happens to the people who start the scapegoating in the first place? When nothing is done to stop their behavior, they may think it's acceptable – and they're likely to do it again.
And remember, it's possible that, in the end, no one is at fault. After all: that potential client could choose only one supplier.
Most of us don't like to look bad, so it's understandable to want to move the focus – and blame – onto someone else. And we often aren't aware of the actions and words that lead us to blame others, so it's especially important to step back to see things clearly.
It's also important to learn how to identify when blame is, or soon will be, misplaced – so you can stop it from getting worse. When the team starts to point fingers, people quickly become defensive and angry.
Be sure to watch out for these things:
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