Thursday, 18 July 2013 11:27

Accountability Leadership Video

Published in Video
Thursday, 18 July 2013 09:41

Accountability – The Blame Game

Traditional methods of motivation apply the familiar reward versus punishment scenario. Do the right thing and you are rewarded through compensation, bonuses and other rewards; do the wrong thing, make a mistake and you’ll be punished. The ever-present fear of punishment fuels the blame game and discourages employees from stepping up and taking responsibility, let alone take risks (Accountability Leadership 2013). Accepting greater responsibility and accountability requires a degree of emotional maturity. How can we nurture such  characteristics in employees while our organisations hang on to outmoded notions of motivation that encourage the exact opposite?

To understand why blame is so prevalent in organisations, we need look no further than the lessons of childhood. A significant part of childhood is learning to recognise errors in judgement.  As a three year old, crayoning on the wall often constitutes an introduction to the idea of accountability and the harsh reality of consequences. Perhaps that is why, in corporate board rooms, adults are so quick to place blame rather than to accept it. A blog by Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review dares to suggest that “manning up” could earn you the admiration of your colleagues, a promotion, and could even set a trend in changing the culture in your organisation. The article describes a corporate meeting in which the sales director decides to openly list the errors that he feels he has made which, in turn, prompts colleagues to do the same.

It is a sad testament to the prevalence of blame and fear in organisations, that so many individuals feel compelled to obsessively save emails and documents in the event that they are required to defend themselves. However, if a corporate culture is accepting of human error, so much can be gained from accepting responsibility. For one thing, lessons learned will prevent the same event from reoccurring. For another, it takes courage and outrageous self esteem to stand up and set such a noble example.

Eliminating the blame culture yields similar benefits in smaller organisations – if not more so. An article in “Inc.” by Khary Cuffe from May 2012, explains that most entrepreneurs simply do not have time for the “blame game”. They need to identify the problem, correct it, and move on. Cuffe suggests that, if your organisation is small, address issues that are detrimental to your business immediately. Encourage those who are a willing to admit their mistakes for they are the ones who will learn the most and grow the quickest. Such a strategy might ensure that accountability is a predominant component of your organisational culture, one that employees aspire to and one that is much more productive than the blame game.


Accountability Leadership (2013) D Worrall

Why You Should Take the Blame

Is the Blame Game Bringing You Down?

Published in Leading Change Blog