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Great Minds Think Differently
Dear <<First Name>>

Have you ever wondered how to end ‘blame game’ behaviour at work? If so, you’ll love this month’s articles from the Great Minds Think Differently team. Read on to find out how to:
▪ Stop negative people taking over your team
▪ Get people collaborating instead of wasting energy on pointless storytelling
▪ Prevent conflict being perpetuated by ‘us and them’ stories
▪ Build healthier, happier team dynamics by disrupting blame game tactics
▪ End the psychological games which hold teams back at work
▪ Create positive, success-oriented mindsets in your team


Eleanor Shakiba- The social dynamics perspective

When blame game tactics are at play, you’re likely to find lots of ‘us and them’ style stories being told. Employees who tell these stories usually cast themselves as victims and maintain that their ‘difficult co-workers’ are persecutors. If managers or team leaders step into rescuer roles, the blame game will continue. So it’s important that managers and supervisors remain neutral and objective. Here are four ways to do this.  

1. Reframe the issue

Once an employee thinks differently about a conflict, they’ll find it easier to stop playing the victim role. Your job is to help employees put aside feelings such as anger, so they can view the problem objectively. To do this, you can use reframing techniques. Try saying:

▪ It sounds as though your relationship with [name] needs to change
▪ Lately you’re finding it hard to get on with [name]​

For more information about how to reframe, view Eleanor Shakiba’s video here

2. Spotlight the speaker’s contribution to the problem

Remember that the employee needs to take responsibility for their part in game. You can help them do this by asking spotlight questions, such as ‘How did you react when [name] said that?’ or ‘What impact did your reaction have on the situation?’ Learn more in Eleanor's full article.

3. Focus on defining the ideal relationship state

Step three of ending ‘poor me’ stories is about giving the employee motivation to change. It involves building a rich, sensory-specific description of the ‘ideal’ relationship state. Take your time during this stage. The longer the employee spends visualising a positive future, the more motivated they’ll be to create that future. Prompt their imagination by asking solution focussed questions. Read Eleanor’s full article for tips on how to do this. Or hear her explain how to deal with blame games in this month’s video

4. Design an action plan

Finally, focus on working out what the employee will do next. Start by using solution focussed questions to guide the action-planning process. If necessary, provide micro skills coaching to help the employee master new assertive, communication patterns. And always close the conversation by setting a date to review the employee’s progress in carrying out their plan. 

Karen Meager - The Health & Clinical Perspective

Blame games can be overt or covert. Overt games are easy to spot but covert ones are less easy and can spread like poison through a team. Covert blame games are caused by passive aggressive behaviour. Passive aggressive behaviour is behaviour that demonstrates the person thinks something or someone is wrong, but it is displayed in a passive way rather than a direct way. Passive aggressive behaviour includes gossip, backstabbing, complaining about people behind their backs, moaning, teasing, banter, sarcasm, setting other people up for a fight and belittling. If you are ever on the receiving end of passive aggressive behaviour you will know it feels like being stabbed by smoke - it hurts or doesn’t feel good but there’s nothing to fight. The purpose of passive aggressive behaviour is to get someone else to do the fighting because people who exhibit this behaviour haven’t learnt how to be assertive. Deal appropriately with passive aggressive behaviour by:

▪ Not getting drawn into other people’s battles. If you are a manager you can coach the person as Eleanor describes above but don’t be drawn into taking over and fighting their battle for them.
▪ Not getting drawn into gossip, teasing or other behaviour which could be described as ‘harmless’ or ‘just a bit of fun’. Instead break the pattern by taking the conversation back to something appropriate or asking ‘how is this helping us?’
▪ Giving feedback to individuals who engage in this behaviour. Some people are unaware of the damage their behaviour could cause, so start by offering them ways to deal with the situation better. If it continues though, you may need to give stronger feedback or take action.
▪ Reward behaviour that is healthy. People who take responsibility and demonstrate assertive behaviour should be rewarded. Make sure you don’t reward passive aggressive behaviour. That will encourage other people to behave the same, as it sends out the message that this is the way to behave to get on.

How healthy is your workplace? Find out with Karen’s full guide

John McLachlan - The Business View

How do you avoid the blame game in a group environment? If something has gone wrong,people naturally feel uncomfortable and worried. So these sessions can be tough, as we discussed in March’s piece. This can mean leaders latch onto the most obvious or simple cause of a problem. Instead avoid the blame game by following this simple process:

1) Each person describes their perception of the problem. This could be everyone throwingout a word, or they could put it on post its which you then collect. This can be good in a low trust environment. Discuss the themes and don’t ask anyone to justify their position.
2) Ask ‘What’s the cause of this problem?’ and brainstorm it with the group. This could be done from the front of the room or again using post it notes. The key is that people have to express the causes as ‘issues’ not ‘blame’. So ‘there was a breakdown in communication between X and Y’ rather than ‘ they didn’t let us know in time’.
3) Once you’ve got out all the surface causes, drill down by asking ‘what else could be a factor?’. Do this many times until the room has run out of ideas.
4) Now as a group or in small groups look at the themes. Step back from the detail and draw together the main 3 or 4 themes. There is never one cause to a complex problem.
5) Then go into the detail with an outcome focus by asking ‘What do we want instead?’

Sometimes this process is best facilitated by someone not involved who can step back and also deal with any of the typical blame games that Eleanor and Karen describe.

Moving away from a blame culture starts with stopping the blame games as they happen. Skilled leaders, managers and HR professionals learn to do this well. We hope this information and these hints and tips have been helpful, if not don’t blame us!

Next month.....Dealing with Difficult Team Members
Until then

Karen, John and Eleanor

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