Along with love, pleasure, anger and dismay, one of the characteristics we share, as human beings, is blame. It’s human nature to ask “Who did that? Who’s to blame? Who is at fault? In fact, an entire, and highly popular, genre of movies and television programs are focused on the “whodunit” theme, from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventures to classic Agatha Christie mysteries to Perry Mason’s courtroom dramas.
While we may not be steeped in the thrill of a mystery, we are very often pinning blame on someone without much detective work; teachers blame students, students blame teachers, bosses blame employees, employees blame bosses and politicians blame each other. As Robert Half, founder and owner of one of the nations largest staffing and consulting businesses says, “The search for others to blame is always successful.”
Shifting Blame or Being Responsible
Personally, I try to steer my focus away from dishing out blame to taking responsibility for my actions while accepting some of the blame. By taking responsibility, you can move away from always being the victim to a far more positive activity…finding solutions. This is true in business or in family life. The discord and resentment that often separates family members or business partners is usually because blame has overshadowed the need to take responsibility on the part of one or several people. I am always mindful of my father words, which emphasize, “the importance of being able to take responsibility for your actions or for the actions of others.”
As a business owner I’m well aware of the saying, “the customer is always right.” While this may not always be the case, I will always give an unhappy, or dissatisfied, customer the benefit of hearing what they have to say and making the effort to understand their position. Often the angry customer who is yelling at me had a bad day at work, maybe even losing his or her job. Perhaps they are going through a divorce or dealing with an illness at home. Once people get the anger out of their system, they typically respond in a more rational manner. It is at this point that I can empathize, field some of the blame and take the responsibility of doing whatever I can toward finding a mutually acceptable solution. Just as the coach of a team should take responsibility for the performance of his or her players, a business owner should a take responsibility for the activities of his or her employees and the overall business.
Being able to understand why people act as they do holds businesses, as well as families together, which is why I run my business like a family. I want to understand my customers as I would understand the issues and concerns of my family, which is much more productive than simply playing the blame game. Remember, behind every story, there’s usually more than meets the eye, which is why those TV and movie mysteries continue to astound us.