Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Who is to blame?

And what does it matter? What we should be focusing on is not who, but why and how. Why did it happen and how can we avoid it happening again.

As long as we blame someone, anyone else, we are not making any effort to correct the problem. Finger pointing doesn't solve anything, it creates even more problems.

I believe that people who try to blame and shame others whether rightfully or wrongfully, feel inadequate themselves. They have not learnt that it is perfectly OK to make mistakes, so long as we learn from them. In the false belief that it will somehow make them look better, they attempt to make others look bad.

This article lists five reasons why some people blame others rather than take responsibility for their own actions, or accepting that mistakes happen and take action to avoid the same mistakes in the future, irrespective of who is to blame.
  • Loss of control
  • Controlling you
  • They learn it from their parents
  • Refusing to admit that they are responsible
  • Unable to accept what happened

These five reasons boil down to two major personality flaws, in my opinion, and can be categorized much more succinctly as, they are either:

  1. A control freak - something I cannot abide, guaranteed above all others to push me away.
  2. Irresponsible - a refusal to accept responsibility - this I consider cowardly.

I used to work in a bank, way back in a previous life (well, that is what it feels like now) it was a long time ago, and I know even banks have changed. But back then there was a whole lot of pass blame down the line - and with absolutely no intention of finding the root cause and fixing it.

I wrote about my current profession in this blog entry, QA is an area where we lay ourselves open to a lot of finger pointing, fortunately I have been lucky enough to have worked for companies that understand that humans make mistakes, and the important thing is that we learn from those mistakes in order to avoid repeating them.

This is an interesting article on the subject. And I quote:
"When something goes wrong, our deep need to explain what caused the problem to occur is triggered. A way of finding cause is to blame someone. This is a surprisingly common approach in organizations where a 'blame culture' assumes someone is at fault for every problem and issue. As a result, people are quick to judge others and equally quick to avoid or deny responsibility. What is easily missed is that most problems are caused by the context or system and not by people. Few go to work thinking 'I'll fail today'. Few also are lazy or incompetent."

It isn't only in the workplace that we see this blame culture, it can be seen at home, among family members, particularly in large families. Sadly the behavior that is carried into the workplace is probably learnt at home, where parents do not reward honesty but punish whoever gets landed with the blame. If owning your mistakes and misdemeanors were somehow rewarded, even though the action still carried some form or lesson, rather than punishment, perhaps we could break this cycle and produce more mature responsible adults.

Of course stakes are higher in the workplace, with the possibility of promotions, salary increases and sometimes bonuses tied to success or failure. However, there is the crux of the problem. Human mistakes should not be seen as failure, they should be seen first and foremost as an opportunity to learn, to back fill gaps in processes exposed by the mistake and surely being seen to take responsibility should count for something? To be fair, it definitely does carry a positive aura in my current place of work. Obviously you don't set out to make mistakes in order to be able to prove you can take responsibility for them, but to take responsibility for your actions, good or bad, is seen to be a personality strength. I certainly agree with that.

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