Watch Out For The Blame Game

When something goes wrong, there’s rarely a shortage of blame to go around.  Self-protection mode engages and people end up wide eyed and pointing in both directions like The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz – and that’s a tame response!  There are also people who will happily hop on their soap box and fashion a scarlet letter for every individual who can be charged with the crime.  For example, just the other day I bought a bottle of water from a mini-mart at a gas station when the woman making change for me ran out of dollar bills.  She had more in the other register – it was no big deal at all, but I got the deep breath, eye roll, slam the drawer shut routine as she explained that the situation was due to her atrocious co-worker, Lauren.  I think she was trying to make me feel better because it was going to cost me a full 30 seconds of my day – but the truth is she just seemed unprofessional and drew attention to something I wouldn’t have even noticed.

This is just a teensy peek into a big world of blame – but I suspect you’ve just conjured your own memory of a situation similar to the one I described. The funny part about it is that it usually comes from really well-intentioned people!  Those who really care what customers think sometimes get nervous about causing disappointment or let-down and they miss the memo about embracing the “we” and instead go straight for the excuses and blame making things worse.  Any of these sound familiar?

  • Sorry you had to wait so long, we’re really short staffed – 3 people called in sick today!
  • Sorry we’re out of coffee, the delivery guy is always late on Wednesdays!
  • Sorry we don’t have your hotel room available, my boss always overbooks us and makes me deliver the bad news!

Ownership is a really big concept with a lot of moving parts – this concept happens to be a big one.  The more you can do to instill ownership, the less likely this sort of behavior will pop up and degrade your hard work.  This is a hard one to train – it’s more of a coaching/culture combination.  If your people feel confident about the teamwork, the management, and the processes – you’re off to a good start.  From there, be a good example of accepting responsibility – if you make excuses internally, your people will take their cues and do the same with your customers.

Employees sometimes forget that to a customer, a disappointment is rarely with an individual, but lies with the organization as a whole.  Customer facing people have the honor and chore of accepting the accolades and complaints on behalf of the whole organization – so it’s important to remember the responsibility and ownership piece.  What are you doing to encourage ownership instead of blame?

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One comment

  1. Stephanie you are right too many people play the blame game in business and in their own lives , individuals can either say they’re sorry and just tell them that they will correct the situation there trying to weasel out of, keep up the good work Stephanie

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