How to Handle the Blame Game in the Workplace

Refocus the group's goal on solutions if controversy and blame become a feature.

Refocus the group's goal on solutions if controversy and blame become a feature.

In any workplace environment, things go wrong. From misprinted materials to scheduling mishaps, mistakes are bound to happen. When they do, the best and most productive teams work together toward a solution. However, sometimes the "blame game" begins, and once it starts, it is difficult to turn back to solutions and progress. A few strategies can help you avoid the blame game, and handle it if it occurs.

Start work immediately on solving the problem at hand. This way, no one spends much time feeling blamed, and defensive employees have little time to start pointing fingers. Timing is key here, so as soon as a problem occurs, try to gather as a group to work toward a solution. If you schedule an afternoon meeting to deal with the problem, co-workers may have hours to brew, gossip, and create a blame game scenario. Therefore, if you can't meet with your co-workers immediately, send an email announcing a meeting and outline the agenda of the meeting in the message.

Focus on solutions, fixing the problem, and working together. Use terms like "we" rather than "you" so that employees don't wonder who is being implicated. If you are not the manager or person in a position to schedule a meeting, let everything you communicate convey a focus on solutions. This way, even if you are not in charge, it is clear that your goal is to work together.

Avoid becoming defensive, walking out of a meeting, or denying your part in the equation. The more reasonable and direct your behavior is, the more these qualities will be expected of your co-workers. If you have made a mistake, apologize and move forward quickly by suggesting solutions.

Listen actively and consider the opinions of others. If you hear a rumor, confront the person spreading it directly rather than going to an external source. Odds are, if you confront the problem maturely, anyone pointing fingers without validity will back down.

Avoid setting a new goal of "winning" or showing your co-workers that they were wrong. Instead, stay focused on working out the issue and creating an environment for productivity in the future.

Focus on learning by pointing the team's focus toward what can be improved in the future. This sends co-workers away with new perspectives and abilities.

Approach a supervisor if blame impedes your team's work and you find yourself unable to communicate with co-workers because of it. Explain the situation in detail, and offer the reasons you feel a manager's intervention is necessary. The more organized and prepared you are in your approach, the more likely you are to solicit the help of a manager.

 

About the Author

Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.

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