A blame culture will arise when employees, management or the company pass responsibility on to others for mistakes. Or lack of accountability for their actions. Blame cultures are then reinforced if management blames direct reports or employees rather than taking responsibility themselves.
A blame culture is unfortunately endemic in the health and safety profession due to the often physical obviousness of errors, or documented process of any issue. Mistakes and errors cannot be swept under the carpet as readily as they can in other departments and so the finger pointing begins…. But who is really to blame ?! Let us explore further…..
A Blame Culture in Health and Safety is Disastrous !
It may be easy to get into a habit of blaming others for mistakes, but a blame culture within a company is disastrous. It will break down the companies culture and structure, set employees and departments against each other and remove trust both in the company and colleagues.
Blaming and excusing make employees feel vulnerable in their position in the company and uninvested in their role. This in turn leads to a myriad of economic penalties for the company, outlined below.
So how as HSE professionals, can we work towards creating a no blame culture ? Both for ourselves and our Health and Safety Department, and the wider company and employees who we seeking to protect.
What are the Consequences of a Company Blame Culture ?
- Higher levels of staff turnover
- Reduced work engagement
- Lost productivity via continually referring to Managers for decisions
- Lower levels of organisational performance
- Lower levels of innovation behaviours
- Reduced levels of job satisfaction
- Reduced levels of responsibility taking
Blame Culture Specific to HSE
A blame culture specific to health and safety often arises when roles and responsibilities are not properly understood, documented or explained. It’s very easy to drop all responsibility on the door of the HSE Manager or HSE department, but did everyone else fulfil their role ?
- Did the CEO understand their business fully and the risks inherent enough to have the HSE Manager report directly to them ?
- Were Board Members fully supportive of the implementation of a health and safety programme and lead it from the top ?
- Did the CFO allocate enough funding to allow for a robust health and safety programme ?
- Did Procurement give a balanced scorecard review and not just go for the cheapest contractors ?
- Did Legal ensure that HSE compliance received the attention it should have ?
- Did the Internal Auditors pick up on past health and safety issues and ensure their rectification ?
- Did HR understand HSE fully thus allowing them to appoint staff with the correct levels of seniority and experience ?
- Did the Training Department work with the health and safety department to ensure that staff understood HSE and their individual accountabilities ?
- Did Operations work with the HSE Manager to help reinforce procedures and ensure staff worked safely ?
How Can I Work to Create a Company No Blame Culture ?
In the workplace, change starts with you. You cannot effectively ask employees to take accountability and responsibility if you do not do so yourself. When an employee is blamed by their Manager or the person responsible for the activity, such as the HSE Manager, they are more likely to pass that blame onto someone below them/someone else
- Spread awareness about the physiological effects of a blame culture – Lets others know of the harmful by products of using blame and excuses on an individual’s health. When people blame others and make excuses, they deny their own responsibility and self-determination. Painting themselves as the victims of others. This type of negative thinking leads to increased stress and low mood.
What Actions can you take to Create a No Blame Culture in Health and Safety ?
- Define the “Why” as much as the “What.” – When implementing new ideas, like a new workplace culture of accountability, the “why” is as important as the “what.” Explain why this is important to the organization as a whole, but also why it is important to you, as an HSE Manager.
- Follow-up to ensure accountability – People must live the change, and you won’t know if you don’t follow-up ! Make check-ins on how people are doing in the new “No Blame and No Excuses” culture. Don’t let it go and be consistent.
- Look at yourself – Once you’ve recognized that many employees and even leaders are using blame and excuses as a way to avoid taking responsibility look at yourself to make change first. Self-awareness should tell you if you are blaming and making excuses? If you are, how will you stop yourself? Your job is to empower and engage whilst being the model for change.
- Now spread this throughout the company – Switch the mindset to “We are all learning,” and share your mistakes. If you are an HSE Manager, discuss your own mistakes with your HSE Officers and the lessons learned from them. Doing so creates a psychological safe space that will encourage others to follow suit.
- Conduct regular “lessons learned” debriefs – At the end of a projects to understand if anything could have been improved and how you will use that information to move forward with a stronger strategy. Teach others to approach problems from a place of kindness and compassion.
- Consider a system’s approach to your problem — Find and define the problem by asking “Where did the process break down?”
Eliminating blame will improve employees’ morale and well-being whilst promoting kindness in your team. Help make your organization a place where compassion, trust, people can thrive by putting these strategies in to practice. Helping to ensure your companies safety and success.
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