Blame me

Published on 
3 min, 412 words

Categories: work

We often hear the phrase "it's a no blame" culture - but do we really live that?

Where I work we also use this term. If someone makes a mistake we don't blame them but we expect them to learn from it and not do it again. Sometimes it can be very difficult not to blame someone if they do something stupid but don't worry, my team never do that ;-)

We had a release recently to a staging environment that had a few issues. The release was made at the wrong point in the code base - it had changes that relied on subsequent changes that weren't included. It would have been very easy to blame the person who made the release. For me, it was more important to identify why and how the mistake happened rather than who made the mistake. In this case, it was clearly an issue with our processes and checks.

Whilst working on the fix, one of the team reached out to me and explained what they planned to do. I asked if he was just giving me an update or asking permission to deploy it? He explained:

Yes, it's our suggestion, but it's better with your green light. So if it catastrophically fails we can blame you.

My response was:

That is my main role. Taking the blame for things when they go wrong.

This was all said in jest but there is an element of truth to this.

I expect all the engineers to have a level of accountability for the work they do - this helps drive them to do the best they can and be proud of what they do.

However I am not averse to taking responsibility for handling issues when they occur - even if I was not directly involved in the cause of the issue. So if something goes wrong and it needs to be shared with those "higher up" or someone needs to own it then I am happy to take the "blame" for it. I will take responsibility for the actions of the team.

One of the main parts of my role is making it as easy and as enjoyable as possible for the engineers to do their job. This includes "protecting" them from the noise above them and this is just an example of that.

Now the CTO has taken this on board and refers to it as a "Blame Mark" culture instead - apparently I am to blame for everything!