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Kevin Rutkowski

I recently spent two years at a large company that I often said had a culture of blame. This resulted in people spending countless hours writing e-mails to protect themselves. It was quite frustrating. (I think that you wrote about the company in Hard Facts.)

In one situation, a project manager from a different group sent an e-mail to many key managers stating that their project was running 14 days behind because the test environment that my team supported was down. We were surprised to hear this because our test team had no significant problems over that time period. We were forced to spend time doing research only to find that our test environment was down for 2 hours over the time period.

We replied to all of the managers to explain that 2 hours of downtime was to be expected for a test environment over 14 days and certainly couldn't result in a 14 day delay in any project. The project manager wrote an apology admitting that the downtime only caused 2 hours of the 14 day delay.

Oddly, the project manager didn't copy the other managers on the apology e-mail.

A tactic that we used successfully to preempt these attacks afterwards was to meet with the other teams in person on a regular basis to identify any ways that we were delaying their projects. This was time consuming and offered little real value, but it did protect our team from blame in 2 ways:
1) We were covering our butts by showing that we were proactive at preventing problems,
2) More importantly, it's much more difficult for someone to fire off unjustified blaming e-mails when they have to see those same people face-to-face on a regular basis.

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