Avoid Playing the Blame Game With Your Next Hire

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Avoid Playing the Blame Game With Your Next Hire

You know the conversation well.

Employee rushes in late for the 8:00 am conference call. “Sorry I’m running late…” as he nearly drops his coffee across the conference room table, “traffic was a nightmare!”

Isn’t traffic a nightmare, though? Sure it is. But do all employees rush in late because of it?

Blame and Defensiveness

Blame is one of those attitude traits that takes many shapes. It can come through in the most subtle of ways- in the form of your employee rushing in late to work due to traffic…”Well, if there wasn’t so much traffic and that wreck on the freeway, then I wouldn’t have been late.” If only. We’ve all said, done, and felt this way about traffic before.

Blame is defined as “assign responsibility for a fault or wrong.” Blame can also be more obvious and destructive than the example above, like the employee who dodges every chance to take responsibility for his or her actions, no matter what the situation is about. Her project isn’t ready? It’s not her fault, the printer wasn’t working when she needed it. The more severe examples of blame often rear their ugly head alongside defensiveness, which is defined as “the quality of being anxious to challenge or avoid criticism” or acting with such “behavior intended to defend or protect,” and when coupled together, these two characteristics can make for a toxic combination in the workplace.

For years we have been hearing our client’s concerns when it comes to their defensive employees, especially when we have asked for feedback. The major concern, among others, is hiring someone in a support role who is majorly defensive.

So How do you Combat Defensiveness When it’s Already on Your Team?

  • Address the Behavior ASAP 

No time like the present, right? Allowing too much time to pass between an instance of employee defensiveness and when you actually take time to speak with your employee about it can be a detriment to your objective.

  • Communication

Tone is so important when addressing defensiveness in employees. When you use “I” language, you’re less likely to stoke more feelings of defensiveness. Utilizing positive language and providing concrete examples to your employee will keep the conversation focused and productive.

  • Get Their Side

Everyone wants to be recognized and acknowledged. Start off by asking about the employee’s side of the story. Recognize their current state of being and address that if it’s a factor in the conversation. This technique will show your employee you’re interested in hearing them out, value their opinion, and naturally lower their defensive guard.

  • Improvement Plan

Brainstorming ways to combat employee defensiveness in the future works for everyone. Kent State University outlines a model for providing feedback to employees that is aimed to get them to think of and assess their own behavior first, then evaluate how to remedy what needs improvement.

This plan includes: 

Question to Employee: What went well?

Question to Employee: What can be improved?

Statement from Supervisor: This is what went well.

Statement from Supervisor: This is what can be improved.

Question to Employee: What will you do differently next time?

How Can You Prevent Blame and Defensiveness in the Hiring Process? 

  • Assessment Testing

You knew this was coming! The best way to identify attitude issues early on in the hiring process is through the use of behavioral assessment testing that targets various attitude issues such as blame, dishonesty, and supportiveness. These predictive behavioral tests ask candidates about their opinions and attitudes toward situations that reveal traits such as agreeableness, supportiveness, ability to work on a team as a team player, and if your candidate has a “can do” attitude.

  • Behavioral Interviewing

Sometimes, you can pick up the subtle clues that warn of potential attitude issues in an interview. Most times, candidates are on their best behavior. No candidate who wants a job is going to admit to being dishonest or unsupportive, so you have to dig deeper into a candidate’s response by asking pointed interview questions with good follow-up and clarifying questions. If you know how to spot the subtle signs of attitude red flags, you’ll definitely want to continue exploring those further before hiring.

  • Reference Checks

Past supervisors and managers can provide a lot of insight into what it was like working with a candidate. They’ll have insights about the candidate’s attitude and competency and can speak to any potential issues or concerns, though this might take some creative question-asking to get out of them!

Combatting blame and defensiveness is possible. If you’re dealing with employees who exhibit these characteristics, worry not! There are several ways to overcome them. Better yet, plan ahead and work to identify them early on in your hiring and recruiting process to avoid the challenges they can bring to the workplace.

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