Workplace Blame: Don't Be a Snitch or a Pushover
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) When troubles arise at the office, it's a pretty good bet someone in management will want to know "what went wrong." While blaming others can make you look bad, taking too much responsibility for a problem can make you look weak. The reality is that failures at work are bound to happen. Our experts weigh in on how to handle them without looking like a tattletale or a pushover.
"You don't want to be the fall guy, but don't want to be a snitch," says Robert Hosking, executive director at staffing firm OfficeTeam. "If you're the manager of a group project that failed, you need to be ready to own up to it and step up to the plate to resolve the issue."
Almost one third 30% of senior managers said they have accepted the blame at work for something they didn't do, according to an OfficeTeam survey. Out of those, 34% said they took the fall because they felt "indirectly responsible" for the problem, while 28% said they "just didn't want to get others in trouble."
"You can't look like you're trying to deflect," Hosking says. "With that said, if there are 10 people on a project, it wasn't your entire fault in most cases it's not cut and dried as to who's most responsible."
When a problem needs answers, Ben Dattner, organizational psychologist and author of The Blame Game: How the Hidden Rules of Credit and Blame Determine Our Success or Failure , says it's best to be honest about what went wrong without directly saying "It was her fault," or "It was his fault." If your supervisor continually demands names of responsible parties, Dattner says it's important to answer questions honestly without intentionally throwing your colleagues under the bus.
"It's about your intention," Dattner says. "If your boss asks you to describe a series of events, you have to tell the truth. If your colleague didn't get you a report on time and you needed that report to do your job, then you have to simply say, 'No, he didn't send it.'"
If you're unsure of the difference between conveying facts and conveying blame, Dattner says to imagine that your co-workers are all listening in as you describe what happened to your supervisor.
"Imagine all of your colleagues are in the room with you as you answer these questions," he says. "Don't betray them, but do give an honest account of what happened. Keep stressing to your supervisor the big picture of what went wrong and how you're going prevent it from happening again."
Keep in mind that if a manager wants to know who is responsible, they may not be seeking confrontation many times they just want to have a dialogue with whoever made the mistake to ensure the problem doesn't happen again, Dattner says.