Blame – or the blame game – is always harmful and destructive. It undermines the team dynamic and creates a stressful work environment. When something goes wrong and there’s a witchhunt for whose fault it is, people react by hiding, covering themselves, misrepresenting and being increasingly cautious. Nobody engages in a productive conversation to learn from the mistake, which only perpetuates the situation and increases the likelihood it will be repeated.
Contrast this with an environment of ownership and commitment, where people are orienting around open, honest discussions that lead to the source of problems and allow for real resolution. In this environment, no one is interested in who’s at fault, but rather in getting to the source of problems. In this environment people are eager to volunteer their insights, observations, and energy to addressing what was missing, what needs to be corrected, and take personal ownership for resolving the issues.
Unfortunately, most workplaces are filled with people spending more time trying to avoid blame for something that did – or might – go wrong, than in anticipating and addressing real problems.
In a healthy environment, people are also much more open to receiving feedback and constructive criticism, as the name game is “how to get better all the time,” rather than a “gotcha” environment where they are consumed by the fear of being caught.
If the environment is one of everyone looking out for themselves, people look for – and compete for – credit as evidence of being better than others. “Look how great I am” is the unspoken theme. In that environment, people also tend to be threatened by others getting credit; the better you are the worse I am. They can’t be happy with the accomplishment and success of others; they are far less inclined to recognize and praise others.
But, in a healthy team environment, where people feel they are working together towards a common aim there is no angst about credit and blame. In this environment, people are much more inclined to view others accomplishments as their own; they are far more generous in providing praise and recognition to colleagues. This produces energy, inspiration, motivation, and a desire to do whatever it takes for the team to be successful.