- Chapter 5 -
DON'T LOOK FOR SOMEONE TO BLAME;
CONCENTRATE ON SOLUTIONS
earning to place blame comes early in life as witnessed by second grader David's self-evaluation in school, "Most of the time I get into trouble it's Roberts fult." (David's spelling.) Robert's self-evaluation included, "I can't sit next to David any more. He talks too much." It comes as no surprise to learn that David and Robert are best friends.
In any human endeavor, when something goes wrong, it is only natural to think immediately of who made it go wrong, who is to blame. Most often this makes the problem worse. The person blamed, in order to exonerate himself or herself, promptly finds someone else to lay the blame on or with whom to share the responsibility for failure. It frequently turns into a shouting match of exchanged accusations. "It's all your fault.... "You did....." "Yes, but you said....." All too familiar dialogue.
Either the accuser or the victim can put a stop to this, though better yet, head it off by getting all those involved to direct their attention to a solution to the problem. "This isn't getting us anywhere. The past is past. What's done is done. Here's where we are now. What can we do about it? Let's work together. Charlie, what do you suggest?"
In a business partnership, or in any other kind of joint endeavor, for that matter, things go along smoothly as long as it is profitable and successful. When trouble arises, however, you find out what kind of partners you have. Problems compound when partners blame each other and start fighting among themselves.
Keep the team together. And if you are in the middle of a big blow-up with tempers flaring, suggest that the group disband and meet again later, preferably tomorrow when people have cooled down.
Determine The Cause
Repeat over and over, "Let's concentrate on the solutions." Try to keep the situation from deteriorating with the result that additional difficulties inevitably arise.
This does not mean that one should not start promptly to understand what or who caused the problem, but frequently, it is a situation beyond anyone's control. If so, this should be strongly emphasized. Some bureaucratic bungle, for example, may have to be straightened out. However, we usually find that the cause involves people.
Often the problem is lack of training, or lack of information. Sometimes a collective deadline is missed because one person or one unit failed.
In some cases, if someone just committed a stupid blunder which caused a problem, that person probably feels bad enough without being made more miserable with accusations. Perhaps the saddest situation of all is when a person is having blame heaped on himself or herself when the action which caused the difficulty was completely accidental.
When Beverly and Barbara were young, Beverly was swinging her little sister around in a typical childhood activity. Barbara hit her head on a piece of furniture, eliciting wails of pain. It was an obvious accident, but something had gone wrong. Who was to blame? Beverly, of course. Admonishments and even anger were heaped on the poor little girl who felt miserable enough about hurting her sister. Both of the children were hurt, in different ways, but Beverly's might well have been the deeper hurt. Several people comforted Barbara. Only one was sensitive enough to comfort Beverly, with such consoling statements as, "It wasn't your fault, Beverly. It was just an accident. Barbara is going to be all right."
Find a Solution
If the reason for the problem is inefficiency, more training is needed, or those not performing properly should be warned, removed or immobilized. If a particularly contentious person, or more than one, is creating personality problems, this should be addressed by rearranging authority, by circumvention, or by head-on discussion with those who are offending. These are all steps to finding a solution and are much to be preferred to the, "IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT" syndrome.
Another situation must be considered, one which is frequently overlooked. There can be those who, with hidden motives or sometimes motives not so hidden, are purposely trying to scuttle a project to achieve their own ends. But means can be found to prevent this. Meet with them and seek an accommodation. This may justify a one-on-one frank and open discussion as described in Chapter 23, "Solving the Problem One On One".
It is such a tragedy when people, friends or family, for example, face a problem and end up alienated from each other. Rather than binding together, they split apart. Reports indicate that when a couple loses a child in death, it frequently causes a divorce. Yet bereavement is the time when they should be comforting each other, when the deepest love should and can prevail.
To summarize, when things go wrong, don't just look for someone to blame. Keep the team/family together and turn the effort toward finding a solution. In doing so, analyze the circumstances as well as the motivations of those involved, and take the action necessary to put the situation back on track.
Blame most often prevents a solution.