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December 2004: Put the Finger Down

Insights, Gripes and Conjecture

Pop quiz time, folks: How much would your company’s, department’s, division’s, whatever’s, productivity increase if everybody stopped pointing fingers and assigning blame for snafus both large and small and just fixed the problem? 10, 25, 99.44 percent? (Totally useless prize for the first one of you who e-mails me my source of that last percentage.)

I know, I know. It’s a trick question. After all, most of us regard bellyaching, snotty digs at those inferior to us, and blame-gaming as constitutional rights. And maybe it’s because the presidential election just ended—well, sort of, since the politicos are jockeying for 2008 already—but, whatever: For the record, I am sick to death with everyone blaming everybody else for everything. I am especially ill over my own ratty history in this regard.

Anyway, I’m a big proponent of the schmooze method of interdepartment and interstaff communication, you see. I’ve always believed that “getting to know your co-workers as people is a good idea since you spend as many waking hours with them as you do your family,” or however that rot goes. So, I’ve spent lots of time in conversations that are half work/half banter.

I’ve toyed with the idea of keeping a diary of my at-work conversations to see how much time I fritter crabbing about management silverbacks or some loser in all those ad hoc one-on-one meetings I have every day. Frankly, I should keep a log, but I am a wee bit afraid of what I might find out, especially about myself.

So, my observations are completely unscientific, but they show that at least half of the half-work confabulations are spent denying responsibility outright, shifting responsibility onto some bozo, or shirking responsibility.

In my career I have worked my way up from the absolute bottom to top management and back down to do-bee status. At every step of the way, I either weaseled out of blame or had been weaseled into it by some schnook.

No more. The time I wasted parrying and thrusting in this game is time ripped off from doing what it is I love to do and what I am paid to do.

Now, before some of you e-mail and take me to task on this one, pointing out management or labor infractions as you do, you are right. In any office of one or more persons, you’ll find endless examples of well-deserved blame.

Not-me point: Manufacturing has been declining for decades. It’s now critical; there’s no time for games. You have to re-tool, outthink, and outhustle the world. Squandering time evading your mistakes, ducking responsibility, or sowing bad vibes with your coworkers is not especially smart.
Focus on what you’re doing. Fix the problem, even if you’re not to blame for the mess. It does not matter. Getting the job done is all that matters.

And if you are hellbent on covering your position and find yourself everready to cast blame, put your finger down a sec and ask yourself: Would you hang out with a ninny like that? If not, either change or blame yourself for not changing.

Thanks, Pal. — Lockwood



About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Digital Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@digitaleng.news.