Blaming Blamers Vs Fixing Flaws

I’m sure that everyone knows organizations with people pointing their fingers and attributing blame to individuals is not the best way forward for collaboration.

In a recent article in the Economist (you need to register to read it) “Why pointing fingers is unhelpful – And why bosses do it more than anyone”, the author seems to have blatantly blamed bosses for blaming, ha! That is so ironic, as the author, Philip Coggan finishes on this note:

“Bosses are the most visible people in a firm; when they point fingers, others will, too. If your company has a blame culture, the fault lies there.”

It seems that Philip has fallen for the blame trap himself by blaming bosses. I have a different tact to fix this flaw.

There is a distinct difference between finding a fault versus blaming that not everyone is aware of and possibly contributes to the ongoing tendency to blame.

“Fault” refers to responsibility for a problem, error, or misdeed. It implies that there is an objective reason why something went wrong and that someone or something is at fault.

Blame” refers to attributing fault or responsibility to someone or something. It involves accusing or pointing the finger at someone as the cause of a problem. Blame is often subjective and is influenced by various factors such as personal bias, perceptions, and emotions.

This confusion between blame and fault can contribute to the prevalence of blaming in organizations. When people don’t understand the difference between fault and blame, they may attribute blame too quickly and easily rather than first determining what actually went wrong and who or what is at fault. Without this understanding, we can “play the man rather than the ball,” and we all know that is a foul.

One solution could be to reframe the discussion by using the word “flaw” instead of “fault,” thereby reducing the connotation of blame and personal responsibility that is often associated with the word “fault.” A flaw is a defect or imperfection, implying a neutral assessment of a problem or situation rather than a judgment about who is to blame.

We have become so used to using the term “your fault,” especially as we were brought up by flawed parents and teachers who used it and its blaming connotation on us as kids. However, by talking about the flaw in the system, we may well be able, once again to focus on fixing the flaws rather than blaming the blamer.

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