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  • Writer's pictureKarl Walker-Finch

The blame game

Blame is a toxic state in which we as humans seek to find guilt in any situation so we can feel there is resolution to a problem. In order to obtain some semblance of closure on the situation, we feel the need to persecute someone, anyone, in order to alleviate any blame from our shoulders or to protect ourselves from the thought that such a thing could happen by chance.

Whilst we can’t control what others think, do or say, we do have control over our own responses and actions. When things start to go wrong at home or at work, the default position for many people is to blame someone else.

I’ve burned the dinner, because you were distracting me. I’m late for work, because the traffic was bad. No matter what steps I could have taken to overcome the issues, it’s someone else’s fault.

Another example is when a patient has been booked in for the wrong length of time, you’ve now not got enough time to do what you wanted to do for them. No investigation needed, no discussion, it’s someone else’s fault and it needs not to happen again.

It’s all to easy, and I know, because I’ve done it more times than I care to tell you, to blame someone else, usually someone perceived as a repeat offender. “Jack’s gone and done it again! He never gets these appointments right”. Ideally this narrative is only played out in your head and absolutely not out loud in front of a patient.

It’s seriously embarrassing to rush off to the team member in a fit of rage chastising their incompetence. This reaction is going to only end in them feeling humiliated and upset if they have made a mistake, making them potentially more nervous and stressed about taking mistakes again which paradoxically is going to increase the chances of them making more mistakes.

Worse than this though, they may have booked the appointment exactly to your specifications and you communicated the wrong time, undermining their confidence in you, leaving you embarrassed, and them extremely unhappy about your attitude, throwing blame around.

Either way, throwing the blame around is going to lead to a total communication breakdown meaning the problem is almost certainly going to recur.

The simplest solution in this situation is to change your mindset to default to self when apportioning blame. If the first thing I do is look to myself and how I could have made sure a mistake didn’t happen, it encourages everyone else around me to do the same. Not only might I develop a way to improve my own processes going forward, those around me have the opportunity to do the same.

Of course, it may not always be your fault, in fact, frequently it won’t be any specific persons fault, more likely a problem with the system. The greatest hurdle to overcome in preventing future mistakes is to stop pointing the finger at everyone else and to work together to see how the system can be improved to prevent mistakes happening in future.

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