Every time it snows, let’s blame someone…

Around this time last year, Britain’s press was seized by a hysterical urge to print the word “snow”. It appeared in every newspaper headline and was the main story in every TV and radio news report. Why? Not because it was snowing, but because it was someone’s fault.

Now it wasn’t  the first time it had ever snowed in the UK, nor would it be  the last. But we were running out of salt and grit and we had to blame someone. We could blame the local councils for not planning ahead. We could blame the Meteorological Office for not predicting the extent of the snow. We could blame the national government because…they exist.

At the heart of all this is a real social problem. No longer can we accept that accidents happen, that there are sometimes exceptional circumstances, that someone made a mistake, that something just went wrong. Instead we have to point accusing fingers and seek out culprits.

The same trend is becoming prevalent in business. Accidents are now incidents. Mistakes are “critical.” People need to be punished.

Somewhere deep down I think we may be losing touch with our humanity, forgetting that humans are – well – human, and that sometimes things just do go wrong. For every second we point the accusing finger at others we are neglecting to offer support, sympathy, help and constructive advice.

There’s a lovely psychological term to describe our behaviour: “false attribution error.” When we make a mistake we know all the circumstances which led to it and, although others don’t have that level of circumstantial detail, we want them to make allowances for what we have done. When others make a mistake, we don’t allow for all those circumstances and simply blame them for the results of their mistakes.

So, ladies and gentlemen, when it’s snowing, it’s, erm, snowing. The main roads are clear and with a little caution we can navigate the side roads which are not. And do you know what? The snow looks beautiful.

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David Cotton is an independent trainer, management consultant, facilitator and speaker with vast international experience.