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When problems arise at work, an unpleasant situation can quickly escalate into a serious conflict if colleagues start to blame one another. Tempers flare, fingers point and in the end, nothing is resolved.

As a leader in your organization, it is important for you to create a culture of personal accountability through your own actions, words and expectations. The “blame game” is a lose-lose situation that hinders communication, damages relationships and harms productivity. Put a stop to it within your team by practicing what you preach.

1. Don’t make it personal.
The quickest way to derail a conversation is to use accusations, passive-aggressive statements or outright personal attacks against someone else. That person will immediately become defensive and your message will fall on deaf ears.

Instead of opening with an accusatory statement such as, “We got into this mess because you…,” start by asking questions about the current situation. What happened? What went wrong? What could have been done differently? Give the person a chance to explain his side of the story before you jump to conclusions. Practice active listening skills and encourage him to accept personal accountability for his decisions in a non-hostile environment, while taking into account any other factors in the situation.

2. Stay on topic.
Stick to the problem at hand, not generalizations (“You always do this…”) or past events (“This is just like the time you…”). Focus on the facts, and don’t get distracted by unnecessary details or past grievances.

3. Accept responsibility.
It is convenient to pick a scapegoat and blame him for everything that has gone wrong, but fault rarely rests with a single individual. Look internally and ask yourself some tough questions as well. What could you have done to prevent this problem? Was there a lack of leadership, management or training? Be honest and admit your own mistakes. Showing personal accountability through your actions is far more powerful than simply through your words.

4. Look for solutions and move forward.
Discuss what actions can be taken to avoid future problems and fix the current situation. Again, stay focused on specifics, avoid personal attacks and be prepared to suggest solutions instead of simply criticizing or complaining. Look to the future and end the conversation on a positive note.

How do you prevent the blame game in your organization? What ways do you create a culture of personal accountability?

Read more about the EDSI Leading With Credibility course.

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