Balancing act: Navigating the office 'blame game' can be difficult

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 24 2013 6:00 a.m. MDT

"Admit when you're wrong," the OfficeTeam release says. "It's better to acknowledge a mistake you've made than to try to deny it, cover things up or shift the blame."

"Move on." When something goes wrong, don't get wrapped up in pointing fingers. Focus on what should be done to resolve the issue and avoid similar problems in the future.

"Don't always be the fall guy (or girl)," the release suggests. "It's understandable for employees to cover for a colleague from time to time, but try not to make a habit of it. The individual who made the error may continue to make mistakes, and you will be the one whose job could be at risk."

"Keep everyone honest." The release says this includes clearly outlining expectations for a project, as well as each team member's responsibilities.

"Give credit where it's due. Acknowledge colleagues for their accomplishments and call attention to group successes," the OfficeTeam release says. "Make sure you're also getting the recognition you deserve by providing status reports to your manager."

I'm a huge believer in that last point. While I'm hesitant to deflect blame to a team member, I enjoy sending praise in their direction. After all, they're the ones in the trenches day after day, and it's their work that makes me look good as a manager. I want them to get all the credit for successes, because I think that reflects well on them as individuals and on us as a team.

Morale is an issue here, too. I've worked for supervisors who were quick to blame their team members for mistakes while simultaneously taking all the credit for the group's accomplishments. Those were not happy, productive teams.

I'd be interested in your ideas on this topic. Have you ever taken the blame for a mistake at work that wasn't your fault? Why did you do it? What was the outcome for you and for the person you were protecting?

Drop me an email or leave a comment online, and I'll include some of your responses when I revisit this issue in a future column.

Email your comments to kratzbalancingact@gmail.com or post them online at deseretnews.com. Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing or on Facebook on my journalist page.