I forgot to call to reserve the conference room. This is a problem; we have no place to meet. I dropped the ball, and this messed up other people’s days.
But Angela forgot to prepare the agenda. A-ha! I’m not the one to blame anymore.
“Well, I guess it doesn’t matter if we have a room or not. Angela didn’t even prepare for the meeting! You know, we probably could have found a place to meet, no problem. But there’s no point because of Angela!“
Finger-pointing stems from defensiveness. We divert attention away from our own failure by pointing out someone else’s. All we have to do is hone in on one particular action of the other person that contributed to a problem.
We can make this action seem as awful as possible and make it the heart of the problem.
By shifting the blame, we’ve saved our reputation in the short-term, but may have also unwittingly damaged our integrity.
What to do?
Ask yourself, “How have I contributed to the problem, and why am I trying to avoid calling attention to it?” Consider proactively apologizing for your role in things, and say something like “Why would Angela need to go to all that work when I messed it up?”
Reassure others who finger-point that their long-term reputation actually improves when they admit mistakes. Show them the power of vulnerability.
This is the 9th post in an 18-part series discussing what not to do during conflict situations. Effective leaders avoid portraying these 18 behaviors during conflict and address them in others. Follow along as we explore the negative impact of these behaviors, and what to do instead.
Post 1: Leaders Address Arguing During Conflict
Post 2: Leaders Address Belittling During Conflict
Post 3: Leaders Address Caving In During Conflict
Post 4: Leaders Address Being Defensive During Conflict
Post 5: Leaders Address Dismissing Others’ Opinions During Conflict
Post 6: Leaders Address Drama During Conflict
Post 7: Leaders Address Exaggerating During Conflict
Post 8: Leaders Address Exclusion During Conflict