Avoiding the Blame Game: How Culture Helps Promote Teamwork in Business

When something goes wrong in business a common reaction is to try to shift the blame. More often than you may think, regardless of the position they hold, employees seek to find ways to avoid accepting responsibility for their mistakes. This leads to many businesses having to deal with what is known as ‘the blame game’ on a regular basis. Of course blaming others – or indeed management processes – for mistakes is counter-productive and greatly decreases a business’ efficiency and effectiveness. Furthermore, it leads to businesses wasting time finding out who caused the problem, rather than seeking to both solve and learn from it.

So, how can businesses avoid the blame game and encourage staff not to shift responsibility on to someone else when things go awry? Actually, one of the most effective ways of achieving this is through generating a strong, transparent and supportive culture. Here are 4 ways you can help create a culture that turns the blame game on its head and boosts teamwork, productivity and efficiency.

1. Promote ‘Just Culture’ in the workplace
Many industries, from aviation to healthcare to manufacturing, understand the importance of ‘just culture’ in the workplace. ‘Just culture’ – which makes up part of overall company culture – can be described as companies creating an environment wherein mistakes are seen as part and parcel of everyday business. Instead of being lambasted for their errors, employees are encouraged and supported to come forward if they do something wrong.
Businesses that promote just culture facilitate honesty amongst employees and ultimately improve a company overall. It is only through employees owning up and having the confidence to face up to their mistakes that companies can learn and build upon errors that are made. A company that ignores ‘just culture’ risks having employees sweep mistakes under the rug, or incorrectly blame others for their wrongdoings, which can have hugely detrimental implications for a business.

As business owners and managers will know, more often than not mistakes are made because of bad systems or incorrect processes. Harnessing a company culture that promotes admitting to mistakes allows businesses to learn and build upon them, ultimately improving company processes. Simply put, employees are much less likely to make the same mistake twice if their initial error has been openly discussed and they have been supported in rectifying it.

2. Ensure psychological safety
‘Just culture’ helps to foster an environment where employees are more honest and open, and therefore feel more psychologically safe. This is crucially important in business. Ensuring employees feel psychologically safe is of paramount importance when it comes to the mental wellbeing of staff members. We all know the age-old mantra, a happy worker is a productive worker – and unsurprisingly a big part of that happiness comes from mental wellbeing. Businesses should empower employees to admit to mistakes by promoting the idea that, in owning up to a mistake, they are helping rather than hindering the business. This makes for a more open, happy workforce and more efficient and effective management processes. A win-win for all.

3. Encourage looking out for each other
Employees who feel isolated are more likely to try to cover up mistakes and, if they get away with it, they could fall into a vicious cycle of hiding wrongdoings. Making sure that employees look out for each other is an important way to improve teamwork, and preventing of covering up mistakes. Rather than making employees feel like they are grassing on one another, employers should encourage staff to assist those that seem under pressure and make sure employees know they can ask for assistance when necessary. Promoting the idea that employees are ‘all in it together’ is a great way to stamp out a cover-up culture and detect issues among staff early on. After all, early detection of an issue is the best way to prevent it from spreading and becoming a much bigger problem for the business as a whole.

4. Educate management in dealing with problems
Let’s be clear, mistakes in business are commonplace. There will always be issues that arise and making sure that management is prepared to deal with problems which are reported is crucial to the smooth running of a business. Knowing how to support staff in need, how to correctly respond to an incident when it occurs, and how to treat those who have made a mistake in the correct and appropriate manner are all areas in which management should be well versed.
Generating a company culture that treats mistakes as blips that are actually necessary for the advancement of the business not only empowers workers to admit to mistakes, it improves productivity and benefits a company in the long run.