The first step to solving any problem is to assign blame.
This was one of the first lessons I learned as I progressed through various management positions in my career. Not a very productive technique, but my experience is that this is the knee jerk reaction of many business professionals.
I bring this up because we recently had a client fire off an email attempting to doing exactly this - Step One. Assign Blame. "You screwed up. I want a credit."
There are a number of reasons not to embrace this practice.
- For starters it does not facilitate team building.
- And many times the rush to judgment mis-identifies the individual who was in error.
- Now you have compounded the problem and created another problem to unravel, not to mention creating more work for everyone.
- And simply put, the rush to blame is not productive.
So here is how I handle the rush to assign blame - "It was my fault. I accept full responsibility. Now let's solve the problem."
I have had more than one boss say to me, "If you tell me that it is your fault one more time, I am going to fire you. I know it was someone in your department who made this mistake and I want to know who it was." (And a couple of you are reading this and having a chuckle.)
99% of the time I reply, "No, can't do it. I will handle the issue with my employee. You hired me to manage my team and that is exactly what I am going to do. If I tell you who committed the error, you are going to hold it against them and treat them accordingly (poorly)."
Many years ago I learned, from Norm Schaub - one of my employees, that he had yet to meet the employee who woke up and said, "Today is the day I am going into work and screw up." It simply does not happen. Employees make mistakes. Our job is to have safeguards in place so the mistakes are not catastrophic. And to use each mistake as a teaching moment that improves the employees knowledge base, allows them to gain valuable experience and propels the business forward.
Strive always to do your best, learn from your mistakes and don't make the same mistakes twice.
FYI, after receiving the client's email, we went into full panic mode and launched an investigation. "STOP what you are doing - time for full crisis mode!" A few hourrs later it was determined that the information the client acted on was in error, so the initial "assign blame" charge was misplaced.
"I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong."