The One Simple Question Your Company Should Avoid Asking
It happens all the time—something goes wrong and a customer is disappointed (or lost), money is spent on something that doesn’t pan out, or an oversight turns into a larger issue and upper management is looking for answers. When these inevitable business challenges pop up, how does your company deal with it?
In any case it’s a wise move to identify what went wrong, how you can fix it, and how to avoid it happening again. But does your approach add in the question your company should avoid asking,
“Whose fault was this?”?
If this question is regularly asked at your company, whether explicitly or implicitly, you have some work to do on your company culture. Playing the blame game is damaging in many ways:
- It causes people to spend more time trying to cover their bases and stay under the radar than actually coming up with innovative solutions.
- It creates a political environment in which people are more concerned with how they are perceived than what they truly accomplish.
- It takes the focus off the real problem, which is often a process or a policy rather than a single person and his or her actions.
- It causes disengagement for the person who ends up with the blame on his shoulders, who probably feels unfairly treated as a scapegoat.
Unless you feel that the employee was truly acting in an irresponsible manner or had malicious intentions, which is extremely rare, it’s best to treat a mistake as a learning opportunity. Of course, if a certain employee is constantly making bad choices and is clearly unfit for the requirements of his job, he should be let go. But again, rather than simply blaming the person, look at your hiring practices. How did this person get the job?
Perhaps the employee was set up to fail by your company’s policies or structure. If you simply write it off as, “Bob was terrible—good riddance,” you may be headed right down the path of hiring another person who will make the very same mistakes Bob did.
Remember that most people want to do a good job, and most people feel bad when they fail to do so. It’s important to give feedback—both positive and negative—so that an employee can grow and learn. But making people afraid to make mistakes will only hurt your business and its culture.