No Blame Necessary

I don’t like blame.

Blame has such a harsh, negative and unproductive feeling for me. And it too often appears in team or group interactions.

Blame is “assigning responsibility for fault or wrong.”

In a courtroom, blame is essential. I get that.

But in the workplace or in any team environment, where fallible human beings are attempting to work together to ship projects and meet milestones and do good, I’m increasingly ready to stamp it out altogether.

Blame’s gotta go.

And here’s why:

  • It gives us an unproductive focus — We waste time dwelling on failure, negativity, and trying to assign personal responsibility, instead of the action necessary to fix it or remedy the issue.
  • It wastes our valuable time — We take on and are consumed in the negativity, while the fire burns. Mistakes can and will happen. But I’m more interested in using our time on learning and progress.
  • It affirms the wrong mindset — People make mistakes. We’re not perfect. Mistakes are learning. Failure is learning. And when we have the Blaming Mindset, we miss the learning. Let’s instead find the takeaways and move on so we don’t REPEAT those mistakes.
  • It sets a bad tone for our culture — If we have a Blaming Mindset, we won’t take chances or measured risks on new and innovative ways to do things or new ideas and projects. We won’t grow. We’ll wilt. I’ve seen it in numerous organizations where great people, with great ideas, are frozen, instead of freed up to do what they do best.

Let me share a personal experience that could have easily led to needless blame …

Almost 6 years ago, we had a catastrophic server crash. And we didn’t have a backup. Sites were down or lost.

Someone made a mistake.

But as soon as we identified the problem, our team turned their attention to try to find options to fix the problem.

We had two simple choices: Blame or Act. Thankfully we choose to act.

We could have spent time wallowing in the blame, but instead we made progress. Sure, someone owned up to the responsibility. In fact, when we figured out the problem, we knew almost instantly who was responsible. And if no one takes ownership of the mistake at some point, then you might have much bigger problems.

Good, passionate, caring people will always own up to their mistake. Which makes it so much easier to say, “OK, NOW … let’s fix this together.”

But the simple fact is most people will beat themselves up so much that adding to it is just kicking a person while they are down. It’s not productive, or positive, or helpful.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t relish helping someone wallow in their own misery.

What I do cherish is helping them discover and see the lessons they learned from the experience.

And out of that experience, we learned … and we also realized there was a need to have a holistic backup plugin for WordPress that we now call BackupBuddy.

If we didn’t have that painful experience and then learn from it and use it to improve, we’d have missed out on an essential product that has helped thousands of people not make our same mistake, and as a company have enjoyed great success from.

If we’d focused on blame, fostered a culture of blame from that, I’m confident we’d have missed out big time. And we justly should have missed out because we’re more worried about pointing fingers, than solving the problem and learning from it.

By the way … this doesn’t mean I encourage making the SAME mistake over and over again. That simply demonstrates a lack of implemented learning. That’s expensive misery. In that case, someone missed the lesson and repeated the mistake. Someone didn’t show up for class or isn’t a student.

So WHEN, not if, our next mistake, or problem, happens, I try to help us remember:

No blame necessary, just action and learning.

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