Deflection is an art. We can really get great at showcasing our ability to deflect responsibility and avoid consequences. In my life, I have known people who were great at this. Some might even say I know how to do this well. Perhaps they are right, but it seems to be such a requirement in the workplace that likely I’ve adopted methodology.
Remember when Milli Vanilli were caught lip-syncing. And then we found out they didn’t sing the songs that they won Grammys for. And then they were embarrassed. And then they blamed the record company. And then they blamed the pressure to succeed. (And then they released a demo of them actually singing? Just awful, by the way) Lots of blame being tossed around.
And why? Why is this the norm? Maybe some of it comes from the overbearing nature of some moms and dads (it’s always about mom and dad, isn’t it?). “Little Jimmy” could do no wrong in school (“it was that lousy teacher”), in sports (“the coach never gave him a chance”) or in his first job (“it’s the summer and they wanted him to work 8 hours in one day…the nerve!”). Mom and Dad could have meant well, but instead shut off the ability to fail, to stumble, to learn from his/her mistakes.
Maybe it’s because our society doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I work with many companies that are corporately held in another country. When those CEO’s engage with US workers, they notice how quickly feelings are hurt. It’s an oddity to most of them. Are we too sensitive? Maybe. I mean, just because I still cry at the end of every repeat episode of Touched By An Angel doesn’t make me sensitive, right? But I digress…
It’s not unusual for an employee to blame another employee or a process as the reasons why something didn’t work or why he/she was unable to complete a task appropriately. There may very well be truth to what that employee shares, but does it excuse the employee from getting the job done? Some companies that have stagnated find themselves making excuses along with employees as to why things aren’t working. We think that more policies, more parameters, more rules, more goals, more more more will motivated change in process, in employee attitude, in results. OK, America, how’s that working out?
If you don’t like that your employees do it, have you checked to see if they are learning by example? Of course, this is not going to be the case in all situations. There is some tough love needed with some employees. They need to know that it’s not okay to just wait for everything to be fixed before they work harder, smarter, better. They have to be accountable to their performance. If something is not right, what have they done to bring it to the right channels or, even more so, to try to correct it? We want to encourage innovation, critical thought and a healthy work ethic.
But sometimes, as I said, the company leadership has fallen into an excuse-laden mode of operation. Once we find the right people, things will get better. Once the new product line is tested, we will start to make money. Once the economy changes, we will be in better shape. I cannot tell you how many CEO’s have said or thought that a new political party in power would change everything. It’s not Bush’s fault your company isn’t working out nor is it Obama’s fault. Of course there are things we wish they had done differently to help US companies, but regardless, it’s the company leadership’s responsibility to make things work in the context of what is, not in what’s wished for.
Survey the environment, study the competition, take financial management courses, work with experts…do whatever it takes to make your company great. If you are a business leader, take that role seriously and expect it to be hard. If you are an employee, figure out ways to make your job work the way it ought to so that you can achieve the results expected.
For all of us, life is not about waiting for things to work out. You probably won’t hit the lottery. You probably won’t retire at 40. You probably won’t get your way in everything. So what does that mean? Blame? For our company? For our spouse? For our children? For our parents? Really, think. What does that get us?
Be committed to excellence, not blame. Be willing to own what you are not doing well and then decide to change. Seek help. Seek collaboration. Seek ingenuity. We’re much better than blame. Divert those energies into something remarkably positive.