Excuses and blaming have reached epidemic proportions in many organizations. It’s human nature, particularly during high-unemployment, high-uncertainty times like these for people to fear for their families and livelihoods, and for that to translate into butt-covering.
Unfortunately, there’s a tremendous amount of time wasted on such behavior. It's ultimately fruitless, as often those who think they're protecting themselves are doing the opposite.
As an executive coach, I see it in the many organizations I visit, and observe the role leaders have in this unwanted pattern.
Clearly, NOTHING constructive ever came from blaming or making an excuse, something good leaders not only know, but also practice and encourage among their teams.
So what creates the organizationally-acceptable habits of blamestorming and excuse-making? Why, you do, dear leaders, by:
1. Asking (and modeling for others to ask) pointless “why questions”: WHY did this happen? Or, WHY, wasn’t this done when it was supposed to be done?
Questions regarding the unchangeable past are NOT productive, and adding insult to injury, WHY questions, in particular, cause people to make excuses. That makes a tidy little cluster bomb of wasted time as people scramble their creative powers -- not to fix or upgrade or improve -- but for the simple evil of explaining away something that can’t be undone.
2. Letting responsibility-shifting skate by.
Leaders have too much of a role in not challenging their people to take individual ownership when they seem to be stepping away from a bad thing. Don’t let blame behavior off the hook. You can say, “Jack, I’d like to see you step up and take responsibility for this one, rather than imply it was someone in XXX department …”
It’s important then to send the word to your organization: recycle, turn off the lights when not in use, and make your organization a 24/7 blame free / excuse free zone. Don't settle for less.