The Leadership Academy

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    These days, instead of the well known method of brainstorming to mutually solve problems and arrive at acceptable solutions, there seems to be a trend towards ‘blamestorming’ with its inevitably disruptive outcomes.

    By blamestorming we mean the inability of people with different perspectives and objectives to accept any argument other than their own. They approach discussions with the mindset of rejecting the other party’s viewpoint and blaming them for any possible outcome with which they might disagree.

    Unfortunately workplace relations are typical of this mindset. Many employers (bosses) show little interest in the welfare of their employees, seeing them as just another management resource to maximize their profit and return to shareholders. When the outcomes they want are not achieved, they blame their employees.

    On the other hand, many employees blame their bosses for almost anything that happens to them, even if it is redundancy resulting form circumstances beyond the employer’s control. So entrenched is this attitude that in some parts of the world websites have been established to act as a forum for disgruntled employees to let off steam. An example is the US based, which contains many avenues of contact and an article titled ‘Is Your Boss a Bully?’ The site is certainly worth a visit if you have a gripe and to note the following:

    “According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, bullying by women toward women represents 50 percent of all workplace abusiveness. Bullying by men toward women represents 30 percent. Men bullying men is an even rarer situation, at 12 percent”!

    So why this disruptive, adversarial lose-lose industrial relations situation? As written previously, we believe the blame for this blamestorming mindset lies largely at the feet of the bosses. See our November 2004 Article The Industrial Relations War.\' Since that article the first shots in the \'war\' have been fired with the Government introducing its Industrial Relations policy and the Union Movement resisting its introduction by combining a media campaign with strike action. Each party is blaming the other for creating what is bound to be a major contest that will probably last well into the rest of this Government’s term of office.

    So what can be done about the situation? Challenge and turmoil often create opportunity but with so may entrenched views and positions on both sides any changes will take considerable effort and time to become effective. We believe that three requirements must be met:

    • The Government’s legislation must ensure that the changes are fair and that adequate protection is provided to employees irrespective of the nature or place of their work. In short, employees generally must be better rather than worse off as a result of the changes.

    • The Union Movement must be prepared to accept the changes if, over time, it is shown that employees benefit and unemployment is lessened.

    • But most importantly, bosses who treat their employees poorly and exploit the changes for their own purposes must change their ‘blamestorming’ mindset. In other words, they must ensure that good leadership is introduced, practiced and evaluated at all levels in their organizations, and they must set the example for others to follow. Failure to do so will result in a continuation or even a worsening of the present far from satisfactory situation.

    • In our view the last requirement will be the key to successful change but unfortunately in our experience it will be the most difficult to achieve.

    Peter McDougall 30 June 2005