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3 ways to spot and remedy Blame Culture in a financial planning firm

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece explaining what ‘blame culture’ is and why it can be so detrimental to a financial planning firm. Here, I’m going to go through 3 ways to spot when blame culture is starting to seep-in to your firm. We’ll then deconstruct each of these warning signs with ways to combat them effectively.

A vital component of being a leader is to able to motivate a team effectively without using the blame game as a scare tactic. If you shift blame onto others rather than yourself, and/or you get a power kick from constantly looking for someone to blame, you’re probably (definitely) not a leader.

It is worth remembering that true leaders have to take accountability for themselves as it is their responsibility that the whole organisation runs smoothly.


“This transfer wasn’t processed because X didn’t do this”.

These are the people who get lumbered with the blame when something goes wrong. Rather than taking mistakes as a lesson of a potentially broken process, one person gets blamed for the mistake. This can obliterate morale and make people feeling upset/angry.

How to deal with it: View your organisation as a team, where everyone is equal in their aim or moving the whole team forward. Sure, everyone has different specialities and there are times when strong leadership is needed, but this doesn’t mean you have to have a hierarchical structure of ‘officers and soldiers’.

With a true team approach, processes can be fixed by working together to ensure that every colleague has their ideas heard, and everyone works together as one unit.

Departments rather than teams

“It’s X’s responsibility to do that, not mine”.

Even in small organisations, departments can form. This means that responsibility for a unit is ‘ring-fenced’ with someone and if something goes wrong within that unit, they are solely to blame.

How to deal with it: Again, the solution here is to view your colleagues as a team, where everyone has their specialities but it is on everyone’s shoulders to get the task done.

Changing the language around this can be the best way to tackle it. Rather than saying ‘they’ when referring to a certain unit of a firm, using ‘we’ to come up with solutions can increase morale and motivate people. If team members feel like they’re not alone in solving the task, they’re much more likely to do the task effectively.

Grassers and snitches

“I didn’t want to say this with X in the room but the task was missed because they didn’t do this”.

Any emails being sent to or from leaders in private is a certain way of spotting blame culture. Team members should be able to collaborate with each other to come up with a solution to a task without ‘bitching’ to each other.

How to deal with it: Regular, open, honest discussions are the best way to prevent this from happening. Promoting an environment where team members can be honest with each other and work for a goal will almost certainly get rid of critical emails behind people’s backs.

Again, it is the communication which is important here. Try to keep options open rather than closing ideas down. Using ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ is a good way to promote a team environment. So, you could say “X does the writing of reports this way, and I think we could do it this way as well”.


It can be hard to come to terms with the fact that a blame culture has made its way into your organisation. Your firm could even still be profitable whilst there is a blame culture ravaging through your team.

The point is that ‘blame’ is the death of ‘culture’. No matter how profitable your business is, if it is an unhappy team that is making it profitable, it won’t last for very long.

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