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What Looks Like a People Problem is Often a Situation Problem

 

It’s easier to blame and flame people than it is to fix the crappy systems that are often the root cause of unacceptable performance and behavior in our organizations.--Bret Simmons

One of the biggest challenges we face in any system is understanding the root cause of problems. So often in our organizations we see behavior in people that we find unacceptable and we end up blaming the people, rather than looking at the system in which they are operating. 

The reality is, though, that much of human behavior is about responding to our external environment. What are we rewarded for doing? How is good decision-making supported or thwarted? 

In the video above, Bret looks at something called the "fundamental attribution error." This is simply our human tendency to blame people rather than to look at how the underlying system or work environment is encouraging them to behave in a certain way. 

This is powerful knowledge for us to have in looking at our work. When we see staff doing things we don't like, rather than blaming them, we could look at what we're rewarding them for doing--how is the system encouraging this behavior?

Same thing with our job seeker participants. Have we set up systems that really support and encourage them to make the right decisions and to do what is most helpful to them in their careers and job search? 

More often than not, when we dig deeper, we find that what frustrates or infuriates us about the decisions and actions of others is not some personal failing on their part, but instead how our systems aren't providing the proper support and guidance. Rather than always assuming that people are to blame, we need to first look at how we've set things up in the workplace to encourage some of the behaviors that drive us crazy. 

 

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