Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The blame game

Have you ever noticed how efficient people or organizations are in identifying their stakeholder relations when it comes to being blamed for a specific behavior in the context of a negatively framed issue? A striking example is BP’s public communication regarding the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Although assuming more or less the responsibility for the leaking wellhead’s consequences, BP continuously emphasized that deepwater oil drilling depends on cooperation between various business partners. In this regard BP frequently pointed out that the oil-drilling rig “Deepwater Horizon” was operated by offshore drilling contractor Transocean; that the oil-companies Anadarko and Mitsui are co-owners of the leaking well; that Halliburton cemented the leaking seal of the wellhead; that the oil service provider Cameron delivered the failing blow-out preventer; and that the responsible US supervisory authority did regular inspections on BP’s rented drilling rigs. It seems that being blamed for various failures leading to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP’s communication provided the public, at least partly, with the company’s stakeholder relationships regarding the controversial issue of deepwater oil drilling.
Interestingly, in the case of success people and organizations do not mention their stakeholder relationships in the same way as they do when being blamed for failure. Indeed, employees and customers are frequently recognized as being important for organizations’ positive results, but has BP ever mentioned Transocean or Halliburton during the years of (financial) success? It would clearly add to the quality of stakeholder relationships, if an organization not only recognizes its stakeholder network in the case of being blamed, but also when it comes to the dissemination of mutually created value. 
A second example describes an issue in many countries, including Switzerland: violence between sport fans. After the abandonment of a soccer game between two teams in Zurich due to fighting scenes among rival fan groups, the affected stakeholders blamed each other for being responsible. The rival fan groups accused each other for having triggered the clash; the people accountable in the different soccer clubs blamed each other for not taking positive influence on their own fan groups; the Swiss Soccer League blamed the hosting soccer club for not providing adequate security arrangements; the hosting soccer club blamed the municipality for not getting sufficient resources to guarantee the safety of the game’s spectators; and finally almost all of the issue’s stakeholder groups blamed the police for not sufficiently demonstrating presence in the stadium. Again, this sort of “blame communication” by the different actors revealed quite exhaustively the involved stakeholder network. However, I am wondering if I have ever heard a positive mention of the police from a Swiss soccer club’s official in the case of success...
The two examples mentioned above show that being blamed often forces people or organizations to defend themselves and, therefore, leads to blaming other stakeholders in the context of a negative issue. However, recognizing the different actors in a stakeholder network can also take place in the context of success and the corresponding dissemination of mutual created value. This behavior can be appreciated as taking on responsibility, not only in the case of failure, but also in times of success. Indeed, recognizing stakeholders in the case of success may prevent organizations of being overly blamed in the case of failure.

No comments:

Post a Comment