Assigning blame will not help an organisation avoid a crisis, on the contrary.
No organisation is perfect, nor free of issues and internal errors. Passing the buck, assigning blame and avoiding responsibility are the symptoms of organisational cultures on the brink of collapse.
If an employee made a mistake, no manger should rush to punishing them, not before having the full facts on what caused that employee to err in the first place.
Generally, mistakes in the workplace can be ascribed to:
- Insufficient job training
- Unskilled staff
- Poor communication
- Badly designed/written systems and procedures
- Lack of organisational leadership
- Poor risk assessment
- Minimal or non-existent capacity building
- No formal coaching or mentoring
The blame game is only a short-term fix for deep, festering organisational issues.
If leaders across the organisation fail to take responsibility for what happened, that sends a very dangerous message to the rest of the workforce: no one here has your back.
And we know what happens to workplaces where employees feel unvalued, not respected, not listened to or unprotected.
One of the most complex roles of any communicator finding themselves in the leadership structure of an organisation is to speak truth to power.
This “truth” includes ensuring a clear understanding, by the leadership of the organisation, that when things go (and they do) wrong, looking in the mirror is the best solution to avoid a crisis and to ensure it does not happen again.
Today, the world around us provides us with ample examples of blame and failure to take responsibility by those in power – after all, assuming responsibility for what went wrong and committing to fix it are the building blocks of what true leadership is all about.
For instance, the fact that classified documents were leaked, and this leak led to Sir Kim Darroch’s position as the UK’s Ambassador to the US become untenable, should not be the end of the story, only the beginning of it. Why was that possible and what led that individual do it?
If we only scratch the surface of an issue, we can hardly be expected to get to the bottom of it.
The best people to ask hard questions are the police investigators, the investigative journalists and the competent and qualified Comms (not just PR) people.
To ask the right questions, you need to remove bias of any kind. To build a real rapport with all members of the workforce, you need to understand their motivations, fears, strengths and weaknesses.
Most crisis are preventable. Most crisis start from within the organisation, not from outside it.