Posted tagged ‘blame’

Blame culture

September 3, 2008

It’s become very fashionable these days to run an anti “Blame Culture” in many businesses.  It’s fashionable an AD to spout of “lets not jump on the blame train here guys..” and refuse to listen to any reasons for any mistakes that have been made.  I’ve never understood why blame is such a faux pas in business, as it is essential to know why things go wrong.  How can you plan for the future when your AD is telling you the new marketing budget was spent on useless banner adds rather than something useful, when they keep coming back with “it’s happened now, so lets not be blame pirates and forget about it” every time you ask for an explanation?  Fear of blame is nothing new, but I’m surprised it’s still a trendy management belief after so many years.  Therefore, I’ve looked into the reasons for the anti-blame culture and reasosn for why blame can, actually, be good.

The anti “blame culture” stems from our fear of publicly ranking one person above another (even though we can privately do this with pay, promotions, etc).  It’s not fair to be better than someone else, or to proove that someone else is not as good.  This runs alongside the fashionable idea that competition is unhealthy. When I was a kid at primary school, the head teacher banned football as it incited “competition” (spitting the words out like competition was a mongrel at Crufts).   in her mind, competition would turn all of these rosy cheeked cherubs into slathering thugs. Her rose tinted views of children was grossly out of proportion with reality, as we very quickly found other ways to be competitive (because we couldn’t play football, we took to games of “stinging Nettle fighting” which involved using an armful of Nettles as weapons to hit other kids with.. and then saying that “they started it!”…).

Anyway, after years of sports days with no prizes (just “I competed at sports Day!” certificates, like turning up and losing is something to be proud of…), we all turned into a group of THE most competitive teenagers in the history of Southern Oxford.  When you take competition away from people, they will always find other ways to be competitive, and to proove that they are better.

This brings me to my point regarding the blame culture.  If you take away all blame in a business, people will work harder at pinning mistakes on other people.   For your staff to be the best, they must work hard to avoid mistakes that could cost the company.  you want staff that are always thinking about their next action, and not sitting back unconcerned as they have no chance of getting picked out for their sloppy work.

I agree that we shouldn’t parade the mistake-maker in front of the office (possibly wearing, a big purple “dunce” hat, and tarred and feathered like a chicken) but it is essential that the leader of the team knows exactly what went wrong and why, so that in future they can ensure it won’t happen again.  Looking after your staff so that they don’t live in fear is important, but flatly refusing to listen to any reasons for errors made will lead to more errors.