This pandemic has brought the worst and the best out of people. And being on the receiving end of the worst isn't a fun place to be.
Just last week I was woken up to the sounds of sentences in German, French, and English telling me to evacuate my room immediately. The hotel fire alarm had decided to awaken in a roar at 4 in the morning.
Like most people accustomed to the odd false alarm I waited a few minutes to see if it was "real". Sure enough it continued to tell me to get the fuck out of my room and proceed to the fire exit.
I obliged and got dressed with the velocity of a sloth. As I made my way outside the other guests were starting to creep outside of their rooms too, carrying about the same amount of speed.
But the strange thing was nobody was angry. Stepping down the fire staircase towards the last corner I looked back and saw a couple a few meters behind. They seemed slightly concerned but not angry.
As I pushed the last door and let the crispy cold air hit my mask and steam up my glasses it kind of felt like we were all in a battle together. And this battle wasn't about escaping a disastrous fire. It was about weathering a pandemic and being in survival mode.
Losing the Blame
I feel like before the pandemic I would've been angry.
Angry at being woken up in my room to a false fire alarm. But I wasn't angry standing there waiting to go back into the lobby peering through the windows and watching the fire lights flashing with firefighters tinkering with electronics.
Blame is something you do when you're angry and you want to pin it to one person or organization of people. Don't get me wrong, blame can be a good thing sometimes.
In the case this morning I didn't feel like anyone was to blame in particular. The staff at the front desk certainly weren't to blame. The engineers who built the system also weren't to blame—they were only trying to keep people safe.
I feel like we use blame as a tool to justify our anger. Unfortunately our anger isn't justified a lot of the time and we make people feel bad for no reason. If the pandemic has taught me anything it's that we need to collaborate to solve problems together rather than point fingers.
Blame in Customer Support
I wrote a little in a previous blog post about the shifting attitudes in customer support tickets post-pandemic. How we treat customers is one thing but how about teammates collaborating on tickets? Should we blame one another or move on to solve the ticket?
I think it depends whether it's about blame or feedback.
If it's blame then it's not productive—at least not to start with. Feedback on the other hand is spending time to help your teammates get better at what they do. We've written in the past about getting pronouns right (or avoiding them altogether) and it's not something that comes naturally to many new support people. Feedback in this case can make that something that does come naturally.
So maybe blame is something that should be bypassed with feedback. If it's obvious who did what then what's blame going to achieve? The person already knows they messed up.
Learning to Eradicate Blame
So in short no—in most cases I don't think blame is necessary.
Feedback is far more important. And in a world that's changed because of a pandemic that could be blamed on someone it's better to deal with what you've got, give feedback, and adapt.