The truth behind blame.

The truth behind blame.

Ah, the blame game. Chances are you have blamed someone for something at some point in your life. Been there, done that. Perhaps you were blamed for something. Been there too. 

It is emotionally satisfying to point the finger at someone else! My twin boys sure love to do it. I feel like I am at Wimbledon listening to them play their blame game. Back and forth, back and forth.

Blame gives us flawed humans a sense of control. It grants us an outlet for discomfort, pain, anger, and frustration. Let it out, let it go (which sounds healthy and like a Disney movie, but not at someone else’s expense)!

The desire to pin something on someone else is actually part of our culture here in this country. In Japan they have a totally different take on blame. Blame is almost never directed at an individual but is instead directed at the organization/team/collective behind the individual. This is in step with the thought that most mistakes are the result of the systems people work within, and not necessarily the individual themselves. 

The Japanese are on to something here. While people do make mistakes and cause errors, it is often not their sole fault. Typically, it is the result of some broken-down process or system they are functioning within. Blame just simplifies a complex problem. 

Houston, we have a problem.

Most systems are created by leadership. Leaders are typically so busy managing so many aspects of business that they may lose sight of what the ‘front line’ or those ‘in the trenches’ (the war references are not lost on us) encounter. This causes us to reflect on the idea that The people closest to the problem often have the solution.

But until those people are heard or taken seriously, they blame.
What else can they do? The people who created the chaos they operate within are too busy to care or help.

“Miss Tracey fell today because I had to cover for so and so, who didn’t show.” 

Blaming ‘So and So’ is much easier than getting into the complexities of why there is an open position. 

Fact: employees who are spread too thin make mistakes. But why are they spread thin? WHAT (not who) is to blame here?

Fix the cause, not just the symptom.

If you honestly thought about the environment within which your people work, you would see the disconnects that cause errors. If you took it to the next level and discussed these barriers with your people, you would better understand how to remove them. 

The miscommunication. The mixed messages. The changing priorities. The staff that’s stretched too thin.

Blame is just another symptom of a broken culture.

A culture of blame is a culture in need of repair. It’s blocking empathy in your people and it’s breeding resentment. 

Blame and accountability. 

The opposite of blame is accountability. According to Brené Brown, “it takes tenacity and grit to hold people accountable.” We love that.

Kids these days don’t know how to hold a conversation, they are glued to their devices. How can we be accountable for that? As parents, we should model the way instead of blame the kid! It takes courage, grit, and tenacity, right? Teach your kids to make eye contact, engage with them, and give them boundaries for device use while limiting your own too. Hold them accountable!

That’s an example of the blame/accountability relationship outside of senior living.

In our field, though, before you hold individuals accountable, you need to make sure that you have done your best to set them up to succeed. That means listening to their feedback and acting on it. It also means understanding your sick culture.

The next time a team member points the finger at someone else, help them understand how to go beyond blame, and empower them to help you fix the root cause. 

Then you can both point the finger at your culture. We’re cool with you blaming that!


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