“To err is human; to blame it on the other guy is even more human.” — Bob Goddard
WE ARE all tempted to point the finger of blame at someone else when things go wrong.
Does this “not my fault” attitude lead to solutions or does it ultimately tear your workplace apart?
When mistakes happen, through no fault of your own, it is easy to point out loudly and in great detail just whose mistake it is and how it is not at all your fault.
However, this does not correct the error; it only adds to the tension and will probably create bad feelings between you and your co-workers.
It is much more productive to sit down and talk about why the mistake was made, what the impact was, how to fix the problem and how to ensure it doesn't happen again.
“To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.” — Paul Ehrlich
One of the more popular responses to a mistake is to blame the computer. Yes, we have all experienced this, when our computer eats the files we needed for the big presentation coming up or when it mysteriously misplaces that important folder with all the absolutely essential information in it.
Everyone will sympathise with you when this happens — it’s probably happened to them too. Yet that sympathy does nothing to fix the problem.
Isn’t it better to ensure you have backed up — multiple times, if necessary — anything and everything you may need to do your job?
It is never easy to acknowledge that you are wrong, to admit culpability (for example, you did not back up those important files).
You may think it makes you look remarkably stupid. But in the long run, being able to say “Yes, I made a mistake” and then following up with a solution will be more productive and instil more confidence than if you try to shift the blame or, even worse, ignore the problem.
Do not shrug and say: “Hey, I'm only human — mea culpa (my fault)!” and then walk away. You may just get a cup of cold coffee dumped on your head.
“The man who can smile when things go wrong has thought of someone else he can blame it on.” — Robert Bloch
So how do you get through these challenging situations in which someone (you?) didn’t do the job properly?
Well, you can start by creating an atmosphere of confidence and trust — and this has to come from the top.
Allowing that people make mistakes and focusing on how to learn from them to ensure they don’t happen again is the first step.
This does not mean it’s okay to continually mess up. What it means is that everyone in the workplace knows mistakes are a part of the learning process.
If you encourage employees and co-workers to admit their slip-ups, rather than pointing their fingers at someone — anyone — else, they are more likely to learn and be part of the team when it comes to fixing things.
It is all right to discuss how someone else’s mistake played a role, but laying the entire blame on that person really does not alleviate the situation.
If you must place blame, do so constructively. Keep the focus on learning. Create a workplace culture where learning — rather than avoiding mistakes — is the reality. People who feel free to fail feel free to innovate.
Also, ensure there is no tolerance for blame in the workplace. This means not succumbing to the blame game yourself.
As tempting as it is to jump up and down, pointing a finger of blame at someone else, calling, “He did it! He did it!”, restrain yourself. Remember, that is not the example you want to set if you want to encourage accountability and trust in others.