Updated August 2023

When things go wrong, it's easy to lay blame elsewhere. When we do that, we may get a momentary sense of relief from the embarrassment, shame or inconvenience of the mistake or miscue. But that never lasts very long. And that's why the blame game is a losing one.

Stretching our ownership of whatever happens feels harder at first, but ultimately wins the day. Because people who are responsible and accountable get more done. People like them better. They're more effective in the long run.

4 things to do instead of placing blame

Next time things go wrong at your job -- and they will -- think about how you respond. If you're involved, step up. Here are some action items:

  1. Admit the mistake but don't wallow in it. Ownership isn't doing a full-on post-mortem and focusing on the past. Instead, cop to your involvement and move on.
  2. Don't beat yourself up. All self-flagellation does is waste time you could be using to plan your first move to get back on track. Invest the bad energy in a good way.
  3. Focus on the next step. Our tendency when something goes wrong is to over-correct. To try to fix the whole thing in one fell swoop. But when we're in an emotional place -- and we often are when things go south -- we don't make great long-term plans. So focus on one or two steps that get you -- and your project -- moving in the right direction.
  4. Learn from it. Sure, you want to learn how not to make the exact same mistake again, but also learn a little more about yourself. How might you help yourself make better decisions in the future? Can you give yourself a little room to calm down your emotions? This is the ultimate in accountability.

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