Another admin on your team just made a cringe-worthy mistake. It was so bad that, although you’re a team player, you’d like to make sure your co-worker is held accountable.
Is there a way to place the blame in a professional way? Opinions differ among the experts.
1. Hold a post-mortem analysis of what happened, “where you look at the chain of events, what occurred and what didn’t, and questions get answered in a good-faith process,” says Ben Dattner, aconsultant and author of The Blame Game.
2. Speak privately to the person, recommends Jodi Glickman, president of Great on the Job. Let the person know you are aware that the mistake is his responsibility, and ask how you could help prevent it from happening again.
“It’s not about the one error,” she says. “It’s about the breakdown in communications or the lack of understanding of responsibilities.”
3. Call them out only if you want to encourage a “culture of blame,” says Alina Tugend, author of Better By Mistake.
Research shows that people in the workplace tend to copy blaming as a behavior, whether consciously or unconsciously, which perpetuates the problem. “Conversely,” says Tugend, “when people see others taking responsibility for their mistakes or failures, they also copy that, creating a better overall work environment.”
4. If you take it to a manager, keep your tone professional, and stick to the facts, says Lynn Taylor, chief executive of Lynn Taylor Consulting and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.
Acknowledge that while you weren’t involved with the problem, you will be happy to help resolve it.
The bottom line is that finger-pointing is more common in the workplace, as people are increasingly insecure about their jobs.
Because of that insecurity, it’s important to give credit where credit is due.
Giving credit “makes others want to work with you,” says Jill A. Brown, an assistant professor of management at the College of Business and Economics at Lehigh University.
“If you share credit, are conscious of other people’s agendas and are always trying to make your colleagues look good, people will love you,” she says. “They will want to be on your team.”
— Adapted from “The Problem With Pointing Fingers,” Eilene Zimmerman, The New York Times.
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