The Brexit Blame Culture – How do we avoid this in our organisations? - Emerge UK
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The Brexit Blame Culture – How do we avoid this in our organisations?

As we approach Brexit Day – the day on which we either leave the EU with a deal, leave without a deal, or still remain doing nothing, it is interesting to look back on the chaos of the last three years and to go into blame mode.  Whether you voted to leave or remain you cannot deny that the country is in a complete shambles. But who is really to blame?  There are so many contenders that the future history books will be spoilt for choice.

Should it be David Cameron for his reckless political gamble in having the nations future determined by referendum?  For 400 years we relied on parliament to run the country but he felt that the people would know better and his illusion of invincibility caught him with his trousers down.

Or should we blame the people who voted leave – certainly this is something I hear a lot from those who are Remainers and no doubt the animosity will continue as (and when) decisions are finally made.

Or could we lay it all on the Labour party on account of its half-hearted support for the “Remain” campaign and it’s inability to form a strong and credible opposition to the conservatives.  Had they chosen a more experienced leader in 2010 they may have returned to power and the referendum would never have been called.  And, of course Jeremy Corbyn could be blamed for a lot of things – most importantly destabilising the party at a critical time. And let’s keep Nigel Farage in the running whilst we are at it.

We mustn’t leave out Donald Tusk, president of the European Council and the man Cameron leaned on to show the EU was willing to change who decided not to take the threat of Britain leaving the EU seriously, the beginning of the EU turning their backs.

And may be the whole Conservative Party who should have taken decisive action decades ago to quell the Eurosceptics on its right wing in the first place – rather than just accommodating them

And. while we are at it – how about blaming British politicians and public officials generally for fuelling a them and us situation – go anywhere in Europe and you will see the English flag flying beside the national flag – do we reciprocate in the UK – how often do we see an EU flag.  Hardly a collaborative climate.

But actually, we could just blame The European Commission and the EU in general for damaging our economy with the Euro and generally not taking care of member states.

Or should we take it outside of politics and blame the British Media for promoting stories that damage the image or reputation of the EU and causing people to vote to leave without knowing the whole truth

Or how about Boris Johnson, for putting his own personal interests and ambition before the country and misleading people with fantasy figures and causing prejudices about immigration?

And then Teresa May – the list of what we could blame her for could be so long I would need to write several blogs….

But isn’t this the whole problem with industry as well – Organisations who spend so long looking for people to blame for the situation that they have got themselves in to and the blaming behaviour that becomes so voracious that it sucks all of the energy, creativity and innovation from people.

This is exactly what Ro Gorrell and I discovered when we started to investigate organisations for our book How to Create a Coaching Culture.  We found that organisations seemed to struggle to produce a culture where people learned lessons, felt empowered to find creative solutions and moved on to a more successful future, preferring to stay in a culture where people spent all of their energy trying to get around the system, finding people to blame, hunkering down and protecting their own area and pretending it is all nothing to do with them.  How many projects have you seen that have ended up like this, and really someone should have had the courage to pull the plug but instead spent time using blaming behaviours and trying to turn the shambolic mess into something less shambolic but at the same realising that judgement day would inevitably come.

What are the behaviours that you see in your company Is there true empowerment? Or do you see any of the blame culture?  Here are some of our tips for creating a learning culture.

  1. Be open about failures and ready to admit to them, particularly from a leadership perspective
  2. Talk to people explicitly about their authority as well as talking to them about their responsibilities (very few leaders do this)
  3. Stop the email “CC” culture – this is a clear sign of a blame culture as it means people are always trying to cover their backs
  4. Ensure all leaders demonstrate in their behaviour that it is OK for people to experiment and sometimes fail
  5. Ensure managers do not allow their teams to talk negatively about other team members of other areas – if they have a problem with them ensure they talk directly to them
  6. Generate a culture of collaborative intelligence where people realise that all or their actions are for the greater good of the organisation and that helping each other is a trait that is recognised and rewarded
  7. Ensure leaders do not over react when mistakes are made and that they really understand how to conduct a lessons learnt exercise, asking future focused questions. 

And so, what about Brexit? Well from a bystander point of view here is my tuppence worth! We seem to need a leader such as Angela Merkel (who has nothing to lose politically) to move to being a stateswoman and tell everyone our dream is not working.  Perhaps she could explain that what we now need to do is to get together, stop the fear, give people time to breathe and reflect and envisage a new European vision. Time to press the reset button, get everyone to sit down and get creative and believe that there will be a solution that can work.

Or shall we just continue the chaos for another year or two?

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