How to Avoid the Blame Game in Your Company

From Democrats blaming Republicans and vice versa for Washington's inability to get things done in a timely manner, to co-workers blaming each other for delayed or poor results, the inability to take responsibility can be as automatic as blinking. A new study from the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business highlights the negative effects of blaming in the corporate world -- and what you can do to prevent it from becoming an epidemic in your company.

Why people blame
Research authors Nathanael J. Fast, an assistant professor at Marshall, and Larissa Tiedens, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, found that common traits of chronic blamers include defensiveness, narcissism and insecurity.
Specific situations can also trigger blaming behavior. "Blaming becomes common when people are worried about their safety in an organization," said Tiedens in a USC press release. "There is likely to be more blaming going on when people feel their jobs are threatened."

What it does to your company
The study found that when members of an organization publically blame others, the behavior can spread quickly throughout the company. "Blame creates a culture of fear, and this leads to a host of negative consequences for individuals and for groups," said Fast.

The negative consequences for employees of companies in which a blaming culture is prevalent include the facts that they will be less willing to take risks, less creative and less likely to learn from mistakes.

How to stop blaming behaviors
The researchers suggest techniques for managers to employ to make blaming behaviors less common:

  • Publically acknowledge your own mistakes.
  • When blaming employees, do so privately; when praising, do so publically.
  • Make sure your company embraces mistakes as learning opportunities.
The full study, "Blame Contagion: The Automatic Transmission of Self-Serving Attributions" is available in the November issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Image courtesy of Flickr user fontplaydotcom, CC 2.0.