9 Steps to End the Blame Game

How often have you found yourself facing off with someone who is more concerned with placing blame than finding solutions?

When it comes to solving business problems, understanding the root cause is important. Blame is not. And there is a big difference.

Who Plays the Game?

People play the blame game when they’re afraid. Fearful of being penalized for whatever went wrong, they search for someone (anyone other than themselves) to designate as the guilty party.

Pretty soon, emotions are supercharged and relationships are damaged, sometimes irrevocably so.

Leaders often turn a blind eye to the blame game, preferring to let people “work it out” or assuming that it’s “childish behavior” that is beneath their professional standing.

Don’t Let it Slide

Unfortunately, this see-no-evil approach allows negative emotions to fester, undermining productivity, eroding trust and preventing collaboration. In the case of the blame game, inaction is enabling.

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As unpleasant as it is to step in the middle of a conflict, strong leaders know when to intervene. Better yet, they set a positive tone for their organization, preventing the blame game in the first place.

How to Make It Stop

If finger-pointing is prevalent in your organization, it’s time to step up and make it stop.

Here’s how:

  1. Acknowledge that you see what’s going on, and that you expect it to stop.
  2. Make sure everyone knows your priority is to understand what went wrong and why.
  3. Emphasize that you’re not seeking retribution, but want to prevent future problems.
  4. Create a proactive culture that surfaces bad news quickly so remediation can begin.
  5. Encourage people to openly admit when they’re wrong.
  6. Stress that hiding mistakes or deflecting blame is not acceptable (Explaining is OK, blaming isn’t.)
  7. Don’t “shoot the messenger” when someone delivers bad news.
  8. Support those who are honest and forthright regarding problems, reassuring them and helping to find solutions.
  9. Be a good role model, upfront and honest in your own dealings with people.

Do you find you sometimes want to place blame yourself? Don’t fee guilty, it’s an easy default position, especially when you’re under stress.

To avoid creating a hostile culture, watch your own reactions when dealing with problems and conflicts. We all have faults. Admitting that this is something you’re working on, too, can help your team end the blame game.

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