Blame Culture Blues - How the Language of Blame Manifests Organisational Underperformance

If you have ever worked within a large organisation then you are sure to have heard the term 'we will not have a blame culture' at some point. However the sheer fact that this statement can be made is an indication that a blame culture already exists.

Where the statement 'don't think of the colour blue', immediately makes one think of blue, the 'no blame culture' statement is more likely to raise within the organisation the possibility of blame than remove it. In fact an organisation must know what blame is to be able to think about removing it from the culture.

Just as a desert nomad would have little concept of (or for that matter use of) snow, an organisation that has no concept of blame will have no use for it - it just doesn't enter into the minds of management or employees. Any business that is talking of 'letting go of the blame culture' must already have one, they are just avoiding facing up to the reality of the situation.

In business, as with any endeavour, it is vitally important to focus on what you do want rather than what you don't and a statement of 'no blame' is likely to introduce it into an organisation where it didn't exist before.

Just like the Inuit who have more than 50 words for snow organisations try to rename blame into something else to avoid the issue, however this is often sloppy thinking and leads to more rather than less problems.

So what should companies do to eradicate blame from their culture. The answer appears simple but can be difficult to implement. The real solution is eradicate it from the language, not just blame but all of the polite euphemisms used also need to be removed from the organisation.

No big campaign. No coasters or stress balls. No cultural change programme. To remove blame, remove any reference to it from the culture.

Now, this doesn't mean avoiding the issue, often that just makes the whole thing worse, but embracing and accepting that it exists and deciding that (like the snow) it is of no value and as such there is no need to talk about it will make an amazing difference to the way the business operates.

Instead introduce a culture of partnership, of respect and of co-operation, make real acceptance the goal of your coporate culture. Accepting that people make mistakes and that this is doubly true when under pressure will immediately change the corporate psyche.

This is no quick fix and requires real resolve from all areas of the business but once the concept takes hold it spreads like fire through every part of the organisation. Oh, and what of accountability and resposibility? People become more responsible and are willing to be held accountable as they know that they will be respected for who they are and what they can achieve rather than for any mistake they make along the way.

To really eradicate blame from your organisation stop trying so hard and introduce an acceptance culture. It will do wonders for morale and you'll never have to mention the B-word ever again.

More information regarding staff performance, the PRISM© Goal Setting System and additional tools for improving organisational management can be found at

L Stuart Avery 2005 © Achieving Greatness Ltd. All rights reserved.


PERMISSION TO REPUBLISH: This article may be republished in newsletters and on web sites provided attribution is provided to the author, and it appears with the included copyright, resource box and live web site link.

L Stuart Avery is the Managing Director of Achieving Greatness Ltd, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness around personal and management behaviours. Achieving Greatness specialises in offering advice and support to organisations going through change intitiatives and looking to enhance the performance of their staff. It provides training courses, facilitiation services and coaching to business leaders on Leadership, Management and Strategy.

Stuart has over 20 years of experience across a wide range of industries including Government, Charities, Retail, Travel, Insurance, IT Services and Logistics.

For more information visit

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