Simple Solutions for Complex Challenges

Who is to Blame? The Blame Game!

The Blame Game, anyone who has ever had or have children or been or is a supervisor or manager, they have played this game; WHO IS TO BLAME? The Blame Game. Sound familiar? We’ve all played this game at least once in our lives at all ages.

It seems to be our nature that if something goes wrong, someone has caused it and must bear the blame for the problem. In our litigious society, if somebody screwed up on purpose or just made a mistake, it is time for a law suit and the law suit lottery! Oh, really?

The facts are 90% of the time no one is to blame, something just happened. If someone is to blame, pointing fingers and admonishing them, usually in front of others, doesn’t resolve the difficulty. Does it? It just causes hard feelings, embarrassment, and more trouble going forward. The real question is how to fix things in the least offensive fashion and least amount of heartache(s). Wouldn’t you agree?

So what’s the answer? You know, but let me expound.

First– sit down with all involved and fact-find as to what actually occurred and what you expected or wanted to occur. That’s being objective- the real key to success!  Yes, it even works with kids! Kids are smarter than you think at all ages! Even babies know how to manipulate us with their smiles and cries! Think about it!

Second– all talk about how we all can do something different in the future under these same circumstances. Babies are the only exception to this but the parents are not exempted!

Third– all come up with a plan to insure the problem doesn’t arise. Write the plan of attack down and make sure everyone gets a copy of the plan if necessary.

Fourth– Execute, the plan, not the person or people.

Let me give you some examples:

My 4 kids, when they were small, were playing in the basement. A lot of laughing came up from the basement. If anyone had or have kids, you know too much laughter needs to be checked on. So my wife goes down and sure enough, trouble. One of the twins is in the dryer, tumbling. It was a front load and you could turn the tumble on without heat. Thank God. The other three are sitting there watching the twin tumble and everyone is hysterical. My wife stops the dryer and has the twin unload, if you will. She asked why? He said it was fun. Asking who prompted this was useless, our youngest was smarter than the other three, and we knew who instigated this as usual. Why ask!

At this point, you could scold all of them and punish them but that’s not the answer nor will it stop it in the future. So instead of pointing a finger at anyone or all, my wife explained the dangers of the prank and that it should not be done. She made sure they understood and sent them on their way. She also reminded herself, when not using the dryer, unplug it. Problem resolved with no repercussions and no one getting embarrassed or punished. See the point?

Next example: I was an operations manager at two different banks in my career, on the night shift. In operations, anywhere, something is bound to go awry. It’s Murphy’s Law. One of our check sorting machines goes down because the operator stuffed the intake hopper incorrectly with too many checks too fast. He was in a hurry to go to break. We had over 2 million items to sort that night, only three machines to do the job. Even one down for a while will make us miss the processing deadline to post customer accounts. So the new team leader came to me frantic. We went to the sorter and I surveyed the jam with the operator and team leader. Now at this point, I could have started ranting at the operator and team leader. But would that have resolved the problem? No. It would have made two workers angry with me for embarrassing them in front of the rest of the workers. So instead, we calmly conversed about what caused the jam? The operator told me he was in a rush to get done with his rack so he could go to break. So instead of yelling at him, I asked them both, how could we avoid this in the future? The team leader and operator both agreed, 10 minutes before his break, he’d notify the team leader for someone to take his place for the break. So, there would be no need to rush. We all agreed.

Next, I said, so how do we fix the machine, it was a really bad jam and I was afraid of equipment damaged if we tried to clear it ourselves? They looked at me. I suggested, you open the body first and check it out and if too screwed up find the IBM maintenance guy on shift and let him clear the jam without destroying the sorter. Everyone agreed. The engineer cleared the machine is about 5 minutes. Mr. Jam went on break. The team leader found someone to run the sorter until Mr. Jam came back from break. Problem resolved. But more importantly, no one lost face, or was embarrassed or yelled at. No hard feelings were made and we all agreed how to avoid the problem in the future. We avoided the Blame Game!

But that’s what all this is about. Pointing fingers gets you nowhere real fast. It doesn’t resolve the problem and just makes enemies. It also doesn’t ensure the problem won’t arise again.

One more example:

I was at work and my ex-son-in-law calls, in a panic, and said his Apple computer won’t boot up. I gave him some instructions which didn’t work. I told him I’d be home in an hour and we’ll check it out. (I was a computer operations manager at the time).

Once home, I had him start the computer so I could see what was happening. It was asking him to format the drive which I said not to do. I asked him, “What was the last thing he did when he was on the computer?”  He said a window came up and said to compress data files to save room. So, he went ahead and did that. I asked him how many and which files did he compress? He said every time it asked for each file he said yes. I asked even if it asked for system files? Again he said yes. He didn’t know it would do any harm since the system told him to compress files. He didn’t realize or know system file should not be compressed for any reason.

At this point I could have berated him as an ass since he compressed the entire drive and all the operating files. But that would not have helped nor make him feel any better and wouldn’t solve the problem.

So, I asked “where he kept his backup files?” We started the computer from his external backup drive. When it came up, we did a restore for all the files. It was fixed.

The only thing I said was the next time it asks to compress, only say yes to data files and no for system files and you’ll be fine. Problem resolved. He didn’t feel like a jerk which I could have made sure he felt like that. But again pointing a finger would accomplish nothing. He was embarrassed enough and didn’t need more humiliation heaped on from me.

Bottom line:


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