‘Culture of blame’ poisoning Australian workplaces

A ‘culture of blame’ permeates Australian organisations, and is quite distinct from other Western countries.

That’s according to Shaun McCarthy, chairman of Human Synergistics, who said the issue represents a distinct problem in terms of productivity.

However opportunity abounds for those with a willingness to change.

Leaders who focus on their company’s long term vision and build constructive cultures can have an impact that increases their employee productivity by 43 per cent, according to the report from Human Synergistics.

It was found that the most common cultures created across Australia and New Zealand are: oppositional, competitive, conventional, and one of avoidance – a problem most often created by leaders who emphasise short-term performance.

“There’s still too much of a blame culture going on in Australian organisations, and with that people think what you have to do to get ahead is keep yourself out of trouble and avoid responsibility,” McCarthy said.

While business leaders directly impact culture through the way they communicate with staff, McCarthy believes many also unwittingly create these cultures through organisational systems like HR.

“If we have a performance evaluation system that ranks people, which is very common, the message people get from that is that it’s not so much how well they perform that’s matters but where they get ranked,” McCarthy said.

This in turn leads to a competitive culture that blocks cooperation within the workplace.

“Companies need to do more with less, and culture change is actually by far the best way of unlocking employee productivity and turning fortunes around. It’s often overlooking in favour of shorter term measures,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy works with organisations to change their culture in three phases:

  • Give people a sense of meaning by making them feel that what they’re doing is making a difference. Have an inspiring vision and articulate it well throughout the organisation, and involve people by asking for their opinion and making their work feel worthwhile.
  • Focus on individual motivation by looking at things like at equity and respect, the performance appraisal system, and your reward and blame system.
  • Create a strong sense of balance between the mission of the organisation and the mission and strategies of the individual

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