Blame: an interesting area of psychology, a legally authorised social mechanism, and a fairly baffling human quirk.
Philosophers and theorists have competing ideas about what constitutes blame and its underpinning mechanisms. However, Tognazzini’s (2014) observation that blame “is a negative evaluative judgement that implies responsibility” is a good generalisation of what blame involves.
There is an important keyword in Tognazzini’s statement: negative.
If there is one thing that is widely known to sap motivation, brew discourse, and dissolve morale, it is negativity. Here are 4 benefits that a blame-free climate can create for your team.
Very few great innovations occur without risk. Whether it’s the risk of giving individuals time to explore creative experimentation – which is how the Post-It Note was invented – or the risk of attempting the impossible, which is why man has walked on the moon, risks are vital. Innovative success requires trial and error, and for this a blame-free environment is fertile ground.
2. A Culture Of Learning
Developmental psychologists assert that humans learn through trial, error, and experimentation. Our brains are hardwired to learn from mistakes to the degree that research has shown that “making mistakes – correctly – is a powerful way to accelerate learning and increase competitiveness”.
By “correctly”, researchers Schoemaker and Gunther are referring to the positive outcomes that can be achieved by constructively critiquing errors in order to understand what went wrong, and how to learn from the error. This can only be done when slip-ups are viewed as a valuable window into organisational mechanics.
3. Approving And Improving Accountability
Accountability is a prized asset within organisational culture. However, it is often elusive. After all, when the benefit to owning up to a mistake is reprimand and social punishment, there is minimal incentive to be truthful.
When employees exist in a low-blame environment, they are more likely to feel relaxed about transparency. This is helpful on many different levels. For instance, an employee who has the confidence to say that they are struggling with a task is unlikely to upset timescales by trying to press on regardless.
This type of transparent communication - which is vital if managers are to understand the progression of a project and to identify areas for professional development – can only be achieved when there is an environment of positive learning rather than fear.
The result – trust – is a powerful mechanism.
4. Infusing Realism And Resilience
Everybody makes mistakes - it is a basic part of being human. As we have seen, it is also a crucial element of the learning process, and something that we are told that we should treasure. This sociocultural reality is often glossed over in organisational discourse, where perfection is the goal.
When teams are infused with a realistic understanding that there are ups and downs in every aspect of a project, the result is to build resilience through empowerment. Resilience and empowerment are starting to be recognised as two of the most powerful factors in success. Fueling strength by positive reinforcement and trust is a simple yet unbeatable strategy.
Banishing Blame From The Workplace
Blame is something that many accept as an important element of society. It certainly has important roles to play in understanding cause and effect and making sense of the world. However, an environment where blame is allowed to casually blossom stifles important areas of development and growth.
For organisations that wish to embrace innovation, problem solving, and critical thinking, mistakes are vital element of the positive learning process. When blame is banished, productivity is unlocked. To find out how we can help you unlock the latent potential of your team, please call +44 (0) 1462 670342 today.