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Accountability or Blame?

By Candace Fisher, SPHR, Director, Organizational Development/Certified Coach
Published June 18, 2024

sepia image close up of 2 peoples hands pointing at each other with call out text: Blame just results in more time talking about a problem instead of really solving it.

In any workplace crisis or problem situation, employers need their team members to be accountable by focusing on the situation and solving the problem. However, all too often, we see individuals trying to place blame. The following article was reprinted from TRP is the “Totally Responsible Person” program offered through quarterly HR Source training workshops. 

I can’t blame you.

Blame is an easy out, a quick solution to almost any problem. The irony is blame solves nothing. Most of us blame others to get out of having to take responsibility, or in attempt to make ourselves look “faultless”. In the end, blame just results in more time talking about a problem instead of really solving it.

That may be why the miraculous 2018 cave rescue in Thailand captivated the world’s attention. The effort to accomplish the impossible rescue mission itself was a testament to the human spirit, and a remarkable example of TRP. There was deep collaboration and care demonstrated in many, many ways. The absence of blame is perhaps best seen in the exchange between the coach and the parents.

The story goes that twelve boys, members of the “Wild Boar” soccer team, and their coach, “Coach Ek” were trapped in flooded cave for over two weeks until a dramatic rescue brought them back to safety. It turns out that cave exploration was one of the ways that Coach Ek worked with the boys to build a sense of team. The boys found meaning in the challenge of exploring the cave together. The coach had no idea how important that would become when they could not escape and grew to depend on that sense of team for their own survival.

Huddled in a dark cave without food, water, or even knowledge they would ever escape, Coach focused the boys on breathing and meditation. He kept them going, and kept them unified as a team, moment by moment. When they were found nine days later and the hope of rescue began to shine, however dimly, Coach Ek probably began to face an inner struggle. He felt deeply responsible for all that had transpired.

When he had the opportunity to write a note to the parents while awaiting rescue, this is what he said: 

"I promise I will care for the kids as best as possible. I want to say thanks for all the support and I want to apologize to the parents."

The parents had wrapped themselves in patience and prayer, lending whatever silent support they could to the massive humanitarian mission. Their response, was as TRP as the coach’s letter:

“Please don't blame yourself for this… Thank you very much for taking care of our children. You went into the cave with our children and you must get out with them. Take our children and yourself out with safety.”

There was no blame to pass around. The world will not forget the image from the first video captured by British divers who found the boys, of 13 young men in total, cheerful and bright after nine days in utter darkness and fully alone. Their resilient attitude reflects their own deep sense of team, developed with help from their coach, and forged in that flooded cave. What the coach and the players may not fully appreciate, is just how much hope their story has given to the world.

How different this story might have been had there not been such cooperation from all involved both inside and outside of the cave. There are many heroes in this story and many lessons to take away. Just one is the absence of blame. It’s easy to blame things outside of ourselves but this story illustrates the powerful impact that every choice we make can have on the world around us.

If you would like to develop a personal sense of accountability and help to create an organization where accountability is the norm and blame is minimized, check out HR Source’s, The Totally Responsible Organization: Working Better Together