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Don't Blame, Get to the Root of the Problem

When something goes wrong, the first instinct is often to assign blame. Many people equate blame with demanding ownership or responsibility for a particular issue, and use blame as a form of accountability. But blame is negative by nature, and there are three weaknesses that are immediately evident.

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When something goes wrong, the first instinct is often to assign blame. Many people equate blame with demanding ownership or responsibility for a particular issue, and use blame as a form of accountability.

But blame is negative by nature, and there are three weaknesses that are immediately evident:

1. Blame tends to be fuelled by emotion rather than a desire to resolve the problem or prevent it from occurring again.

2. Blame language often triggers a defensive response.

3. Blame can be used to divert responsibility.

So if it’s unadvisable to outright blame somebody for a mistake he or she made, how should you approach the issue?

From a management perspective, any action that addresses a problem in the immediate sphere should involve implications in the future.

This is where cooperative language comes in. By focusing on the problem and relying on facts, there is a shift from assigning blame to analyzing the situation so that a satisfactory resolution, or agreement, can be reached without somebody getting stomped on.

In the article Exorcise Blame in Your Company, there are 6 suggestions for getting to the root cause of an issue without the need to get into the blame game. You can approach the issue by:

  • clarifying the problem solving goal or purpose
  • collecting data to help understand past and present
  • diagnosis (identifying sources of the problem)
  • formulating hypotheses for explaining
  • formulating a strategy for addressing the problem
  • evaluating the strategy (more data collection)

In the end, it’s beneficial for everyone involved that the instinct to assign blame is eliminated in favor of a more solution oriented strategy.