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HomemilastwordThe Last Word: Fix, Don’t Blame

The Last Word: Fix, Don’t Blame

Teaching kids how to take personal responsibility is a key aspect of parenting. The immediate response of a small child (even those too young to concoct a plausible excuse for a misdemeanour) is to blame someone else (like Superman for the spilt milk…).

Most experts agree that taking personal responsibility is the right thing to do and so, as children grow older, we teach them to take responsibility for their behaviour, their school work, their chores, etc.

Then, as adults, everything goes out the window when we’re called into account, as literary luminary Oscar Wilde once quipped: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame.”

Many of us have worked in companies that have a deeply entrenched ‘blame culture’ – a place where it’s the norm to blame others in order to protect themselves from scrutiny.

Never waste time or energy fixing the blame. Use it to fix the problem…

When staff members come to work, knowing that their boss is waiting to find fault and apportion blame employees quickly lose heart.

A blame culture is viral and endemic and customers quickly sense this. It causes staff discontent and low moral resulting in high staff turnover and a plummeting bottom line.

How do you recognise a blame culture? If the first question asked when there’s a problem is ‘who did it?’ instead of ‘how can we fix it?’ chances are the blame virus is endemic in your workplace.

Motivational speaker and author, Rick Warren, suggests a cure: “Never waste time or energy fixing the blame. Use it to fix the problem”.

It’s more important to ask ‘how can we fix it?’ than ‘who did it?’.

Defensiveness is another symptom of a blame culture. The most bizarre outcome of a blame-infested workplace is to blame a customer for an order. They may have misunderstood what they were told by their ophthalmologist, optometrist or optical dispenser, but, instead of their eye care professional trying to work out a solution, they are told in no uncertain terms, that the mistake is their fault.

But does apportioning blame help anyone (aside from your competitor who ends up with one very dissatisfied customer)?

Does it really matter who’s to blame? In most cases, you know that, in the end, as frustrating as it is, you’re going to have to end up fixing the order for the customer anyway.

In a workplace that is free of the blame culture, it is safe for staff members to simply say, ‘yes, there’s obviously been a mistake of some sort – we’ll fix it, let me work out a solution for you’.

Next time, when faced with a difficult problem at work – or in your personal life – instead of looking for who’s at fault, spend more time on trying to work out a solution to the problem. You’ll be surprised at how much money and energy you save.