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Playing the blame game

Are you the one who’s always right?

Q. That press over there broke down this morning and is holding up production. They’re trying to blame me because I didn’t perform the regular maintenance last week. It’s not my fault – they changed the maintenance process and schedule and didn’t let anyone know. They said they posted it, but I didn’t see it. This place is screwed up, and nobody knows what they’re doing. “They” don’t tell us anything.  – Dave

A. We’ve all heard it before and, to some extent, we’re all guilty of it. Because we’re human, our egos sometimes take control. After all, no one works in a perfect environment. But playing the blame game just makes matters worse. It’s easy to place blame when things don’t go right. It’s difficult, however, to admit how we may be contributing to the problem. Maybe it wasn’t Dave’s fault and the process is screwed up.

But has Dave ever done anything to try to make things better, instead of just complaining?

According to noted author Stephen Covey, proactive people decide to respond positively to a situation and thus tend to have a positive influence on the people around them and on the organization as a whole. It’s easy to simply react to an undesirable situation and play the blame game. On the other hand, it takes a proactive person to honestly look at himself/herself and assess how to improve the situation.

Is this not what Christ speaks of in Matthew’s Gospel regarding the judgment of others? Christ asks us how we can criticize others (point out the splinter in their eyes) while not paying attention to our own faults or contribution to a problem (the beam in our own eye). (Mt 7:3-5) We must first examine ourselves and eliminate our contribution to the problem before we can expect anyone else to change their ways.

Probably one of the most painful exercises we can undertake is to be honest with ourselves regarding our contribution to or apathy toward problems in the workplace. But we can take the following steps toward correcting our weakness:

• Recognize our negative tendency toward blame or criticism.

• Step back and honestly examine the circumstances.

• Take action if there is something proactive we can do to improve the situation rather than contributing to the problem and propagating a negative attitude.