Blame culture is killing performance – how to turn it around

angry coworker, disruptive behaviour featuredA leader with a tendency to attach blame to mistakes will stifle initiative in any workplace.

People will avoid responsibility and will refer trivial decisions to their boss rather than risk being blamed for potential failure. The result is that nothing happens without the leader’s involvement. The blame culture might also make team members turn on each other to find other scapegoats for perceived failure. The end result is that internal friction interferes with performance.

As a leader, it is important to have self-knowledge and self-control before you can effectively lead others. A leader who does not know themselves, or who lacks self-control will generate a form of turbulence that makes others feel unsafe. Their behaviour will be unpredictable and uncontrolled emotions will sometimes lead to outbursts that damage relationships and leave people hurt. Often these behaviours are driven by fear, or other undefined negative emotions. Leaders who lack self-control, often blame or find it hard to trust others and might tend towards micro-management.

If you know yourself well, you will understand what drives you. You will be able to harness the strengths that brings, and be able to control the potential down-side of your personality. So, for example, if you know that you prefer to be task focussed then you might choose to work harder to consider the interests and feelings of people in your decision making. Whatever you are like, understanding yourself and making use of that knowledge will make you a more effective leader. Being able to understand others in the same way will help you to connect with them and get the best from them. This will turn a culture of blame at work into a culture of inclusion and high performance.

Another important factor to consider is that positive behaviour will lead to positive results. So, at the basic level, being kind, decent, patient and caring will help develop strong and supportive relationships. If the leader gives people freedom and resists the temptation to meddle, then a feeling of engagement, trust and empowerment is likely to develop. The team will work in a way that requires little management. They will think, create ideas and make decisions. All of this helps the leader become more effective as they are free to lead, rather than managing the detail.

Other positive behaviour would include communicating openly and honestly, involving people in thinking and developing ideas and just behaving decently and kindly: no doubt you can think of many more, all of which help build a positive atmosphere. The way the leader behaves has a very direct impact on the culture and performance of the team that they lead.

Positive leadership behaviours bring out the best in the team. They reassure, empower, and energise. Negative leadership behaviours like attaching blame to mistakes stifle and supress, making the team less effective. Understanding the positive or negative effect your leadership can have on a team will enable you to be the best version of yourself and motivate your team to perform at their best.

Neil JurdAbout the author

Neil Jurd OBE is the author of The Leadership Book (priced at £15.99 and available on and founder of skills platform LeaderConnect. Find out more:

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