Thought Leadership Blog

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Is the Boss at Fault for the Blame-Shifters?

Blame-shifting in an organization is typically a barrier rather than a conduit to problem solving.  Playing “Where’s Waldo?” with blame or finger pointing to another target can be effective diversions strategically deployed by those afraid to accept the blame.  Often, unwillingness to accept blame can be a character dimension based on intrinsic motivation and longstanding experience.  In other cases, unwillingness to accept blame is situationally dependent based upon immediate leadership and company behavior.  The following 3 steps are a quick assessment and blueprint to resolution.

1. Objectively evaluate the company’s role in behavior modification.  Has leadership at all levels properly rewarded truth, or are employees afraid to admit their roles in an obvious problem?  Problems are opportunities and risks create inventive greatness.  Has the company paved the road to quality without jeopardizing the road to problem solving?

2. Which employees are most likely to shift blame?  Is it by department or reporting relationship? Is it individual or company-wide? Patterns are clues to the motivation behind blame-shifting.

3. While blame-shifting is in itself unacceptable, remember that those unwilling to accept blame are afraid to be wrong or at fault. These can also be powerful motivators to positive productivity, something to be salvaged. Teach employees that accepting ownership in a problem is the first step to being the problem solver.  Transformation may follow.
At the end of the day, we are likely to find a combination of variables attributing to the blame-shifting.  Some good information is likely to result, so keep listening.  Personality types of both leaders and those being led contribute to the dynamic.  At the end of the day, however, it is the boss’s job to create an environment which applauds ownership, truth and lifelong learning.


Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, January 11, 2011