Pointing fingers

There is a local healthcare facility we know of that has been training all of their managers in Collaborative Problem Solving – a popular model for helping groups understand and solve problems. One of the basic tenants of Collaborative Problem Solving (that can be a struggle for many managers) is that people will always do their best when they can. Wait! Can this really be true of all your employees? That they are doing their best – we just need to “set them up for success.”

Can’t we just blame them for being unmotivated?

Our ability to blame others is, for most of us, reflexive, natural, and, for the most part, counterproductive. Of course we need to get to root causes when something goes wrong and we should establish clear ownership for projects and deliverables. Management 101. And many of us are under deadlines to get stuff done and personnel issues can distract us from the real work. Do we really have time to get philosophical about our employee’s positive intent? Are these people REALLY trying to do their best?

Which path do you choose? Blame or collaboration.

Turns out, blaming gets us all locked up, frozen, and prevents fluid and effective problem solving. We may not even need to express out loud the blame we want to assign for us to have a negative impact on getting to “better.” Employees can smell the attitudes we have toward them a mile away. When we deal with the dynamics of blame there are too many circumstances where we lead ourselves into a teamwork dead end.

Getting rid of blame is not a sugar coating on workplace collaboration, but rather a more business-like approach that, both short and long term, gets us better team results. Of course we must outline for our employees and teams the gaps that exist between expectations and true performance. The core question is, are we treating them as capable individuals or as objects? It’s not a problem with describing these gaps, it is how we do it.

The next time you jump to blame (that place where you have it all together and someone else does not), give some consideration to these potential traps:

  • Blame is easy. Building a culture of accountability, in contrast, takes a bit more work, some self-inspection and some guts, but is much more effective in the long run.
  • Blame is ultimately self-serving. Sure, we get things “set straight”: someone is right and someone else wrong. It allows me to categorize my people. Does this move our work forward? Does this set up the team for future success?
  • Blame rarely solves problems. It gets us dug into our world view and invites others to dig in as well.
  • Blame lets me off the hook for the part I have played as problems emerge. Did I establish crystal clear expectations? Did I give authority and empowerment? Did I check in on progress? Did I provide training? Support? Did I seek to understand, then be understood?
  • Blaming, paradoxically, justifies an expectation that no one (you or your employees) will improve. We often just lock in to assigned negative roles. Am I truly inviting others to look for improvement?

Here’s another tough philosophy to embrace: some of the consultants we work with insist that everything employees do is logical and, from the employee’s standpoint, rational. Under this mindset, there is no “Stupid” or “Lazy” or (fill in your favorite limiting label here). When practicing this mindset, blame doesn’t have a place. Employees are simply doing what makes sense to them. Our work as leaders, then, is to honestly take stock of our approaches, systems and communication. And the starting point is understanding how our employees are seeing the world.

In my executive coaching sessions I find that many managers initially resist, sometimes with all of their being, this kind of approach. We fall in love with being right, justified, and then let down by our employees as opposed to looking at patterns and our own attitudes. The business case behind giving up blame often takes hold, however, when it becomes clear that there are more effective ways to manage.

It is unlikely that any of us will become entirely free of blaming others. It sometimes takes a nudge from a trusted coworker to get me back on the effectiveness train.

We love to see the teams that have developed a culture of positive accountability so that, top to bottom, everyone is willing to own their successes and failures. Teams like this have built trust and commitment to the point that no one person is responsible for “managing” accountability. The team takes an honest inventory, without blame, on both the task and trust levels of operation.

Task level: how stuff got done. Trust level: how we treated each other as we did it.

We would love to hear your stories of how you have overcome blame in your teams while encouraging positive accountability. You can get in touch at bswift@cascadeemployers.com.




As February is the month of love, let’s talk a bit about doing what you love and loving what you do!

Considering that most of us spend more than 2000 hours per year at our jobs, it would be great if we loved what we did. “Doing what you love” is typically at the heart of those who choose to work for nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit employees have chosen a rewarding path, putting all their efforts into helping others, supporting a mission, and above all making a difference.

Because nonprofits oftentimes are constrained by limited financial resources, employee salaries are typically lower than average compared to what you might find in the general industry. That being said, nonprofits are still a business and need to attract and retain top talent.

During a time when recruitment and retention has never been more important, ensuring that pay and benefit levels are appropriate is crucial! Because we at Cascade understand how important nonprofit work is, we want to help make a difference. Due to the demand for quality, reliable pay and benefit data in the world of nonprofits, it is our pleasure to host the 2019 Non-Profit Pay & Benefit Survey for a third year. Our survey includes over 250 jobs and over 100 benefit/practice related questions.

Don’t miss out on this important opportunity and participate now! To learn more or sign up to participate, click here.

If you have additional questions contact Courtney LeCompte at clecompte@cascadeemployers.com or at 503.585.4320.




It’s all the rage in the world of human resources . . . Pay Equity! You have heard about it. Stressed about it. Maybe even cried about it. By following some consistent steps, you will get through this with flying colors.

Cascade Employers Association has developed a comprehensive Pay Equity Guide including all the detail behind the law, information about how best to prepare, FAQ’s, pay equity scenarios, important definitions, a pay equity checklist and a comparable characteristics worksheet and applicable definitions. This is a great, very comprehensive tool, designed to help organizations navigate the new law.

Let’s Review

It Is Unlawful for Oregon Employers To:

  • Discriminate between employees based on a protected class in the payment of wages or other compensation for work of a comparable character.
  • Pay wages or other compensation to any employee at a rate greater than that at which the employer pays wages or other compensation to employees of a protected class for work of comparable character.
  • Screen applicants based on current or past compensation.
  • Determine compensation for a position based on current or past compensation of a prospective employee.
  • Discriminate in the payment of wages or other compensation because an employee filed a claim under this law.

What You Should be Doing Now:

  • Ensure job descriptions are up-to-date and ACCURATE (detail what employees do and identify an amount of time spent performing essential duties and functions). Think about completing a comparable characteristic worksheet (included at the end of the Pay Equity Guide) and include with each job description.
  • Develop a formal compensation (pay) structure.
  • Formalize (and document) processes.
  • Have a pay equity analysis conducted to see where issues may be. Even if you choose not to do a formal equal pay analysis it is important to look for any differentials in pay for work of a comparable nature. If you identify ANY difference you must be able to account for and justify ALL differences through a seniority system, merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity/quality of production, workplace locations, travel (if necessary and regular), education, training, experience or a combination of these factors. Based on the statute, other factors you may consider such as intangibles like leadership qualities, cannot be included to explain differentials. Only those listed above may be used to justify differentials.

If you would like assistance beginning the process, access to our Pay Equity Guide, or to have a formal Pay Equity Analysis conducted, contact us. We definitely can help!



Frustrated Woman

An American Psychiatric Association survey said 58% of Americans claim that work was a significant stressor in their life. A ComPsych study said employees listed “workload” as the number one reason for stress in the workplace. Some additional reasons were “people issues,” “work-life balance” and “personal issues” that find their way into the workplace.

What can employers do to help ease the stress in their employees’ lives? And more than that, why should they care? As long as the work is getting done, does employee stress affect the workplace?

The answer is yes! Yes, of course, stress can affect the workplace in a negative way. And yes, YES, employers should care. A high stress workplace can lead to issues between employees, poor morale, poor performance, and overall unhappy employees. None of those things are good for your business.

So, what can you do to help ease the stress? Here are a few ways to help:

  • Show employees you appreciate them. Tell them when they do something good, and make them feel like their contribution counts in the larger scheme of things. But be mindful of those employees who may not prefer a public appreciation. Ask employees how they prefer to be recognized, this will do even more to show you appreciate them and care about them.
  • Allow employees flexibility if and when you can. The less they have to worry about who is going to pick up Little Timmy from daycare, the more they can focus on the job in front of them. If a job can be done remotely, allow employees to do that once in a while to avoid a frustrating commute, or just to not have to get ready in the morning; less rush, less stress.
  • Listen. When employees have a problem, or even just a question, pay attention to what they are saying and show them that they are important.
  • Provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Access to services like an EAP can have a huge impact on an employee’s stress level, and it shows you care about the wellbeing of your employees.
  • Encourage wellness beyond health insurance. Offer employee’s healthy snacks in the office, encourage employees to take active breaks like short walks, or offer to partially reimburse gym memberships. All of these things can help to reduce stress and put employees in a better mood.

Employers may not be able to remove workplace stress from their employees’ lives, but there are certainly ways to make work less stressful. By making the workplace more engaging for the employee and offering options to help reduce stress, you can have a positive impact on your employees’ lives.

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