I was meeting a senior level person in an organization. We were discussing the market and strategy. When there is a discussion, then all the points, be it positive or negative, comes in the queue of topics. I highlighted few wrong steps taken by the organization which downgraded the market reputation of his organization. The instant reaction was bit awkward. In an attempt to prove himself right, he said “It wasn’t me, it was my predecessor. I was just doing damage control.”
At such senior position, I wasn’t expecting him to say this but later, I realized that this is a common trend. At junior and mid-level it appears in a raw form which is bit cruel and blunt, but at senior level, this comes as an amendment of policies. Regardless of the way it happens, it is clearly visible to everyone.
The people focus more on undoing than doing in initial days of taking over a new profile. Why it becomes so natural to blame predecessor for all wrongdoing and bad result. This happens even the predecessor has left the organisation of good node.
Why does this happen?
If you think it’s ‘jealousy’ then you are wrong. ‘Jealousy’ is probably the last reason. Also, it is not just because (in most of the cases) someone has to be named for wrong things and it is better to blame who is not in the organisation. These two reasons are rare especially among senior and mid management professionals.
We have to understand that every individual is unique and it has its own way of working. We may agree or disagree over the points of other without establishing the fact of right or wrong. This is very natural. Issue starts when we have to perform in the same capacity. We try to correct the things as per our pattern of working. It is not like that the predecessor was doing wrong but the individuals differ in working style. If someone tries to make a change in policies or work style as per the strategies made by them, then they also need to tell the reason of change.
If things are good then why it should be changed? So first it is told that the previous strategies and policies aren’t good and so it requires the change. To support the statement some negatives are also mentioned. Basically, it happens because of difference in the strategies. This majorly happens in senior and mid management.
Second major reason is ‘result’. The new person cannot deliver results overnight, it will take some times to convert their plan in to result. So till the time, the result is seen, highlighting mistakes of the predecessor is a good excuse for them. This tells the management that the slate is not clean. Many things has been done wrong which need to be undone first and then the result of their effort will appear. It gives them cooling time. Front line and junior management are trapped with this most.
The above mentioned two reasons are the real thing and encountered by most of the professionals. In some cases, these reason may stand valid too. But for all other reasons like Jealousy, Incapability, Gossiping, Irresponsible etc., it is individual’s personality which downgrades itself.
How does it will damage you?
You blame someone and you are excused! Not really. Even if, the predecessor was incapable or wrong at strategies, then too your blames will boomerang you. You may face your past at some platform as the industry is not that big. What you said about your predecessor, will reach to them. And it will make your reputation bad in front of him/her. Not to forget that your predecessor is either at the same level of you or senior to you.
If your predecessor is not doing anything to you, then too you are downgrading your image. Everyone, who listen to you, will not appreciate your thoughts. They may be a “yes” guy in front of you but will certainly carry a negative image of yours. In other words, you are denting your own image.
Also, your predecessor may be having some fan following and it may be possible that few are still working in your team. In such cases, you are creating enemies within the team. It will destroy the team as well.
Blaming predecessor is not going to help you anyhow. They weren’t capable enough or what they did wasn’t good enough and that’s why you were brought in that position. The moment you play the blame game, you just say “I am not capable and I will make excuses which are already known to others.”
How to manage the situation?
First and foremost thing is that “Don’t blame.” Accept the thing on ‘as it was’ basis. In place of focusing on “undoing”, focus on what is to be done. Your action should appear as reinforcing the structure and not the renovating the structure.
What is said above, is not easy. It requires lots of maturities. By giving respect to your predecessor, you will earn a huge respect. When we say “respect” then it doesn’t mean that ignore the gaps. You need to show the gaps which should appear as “missed” and not as “mistake”. The management and others are already knowing about the past and will be comparing you with your predecessor. So be alert and focus on your work. Don’t get affected by initial day’s downfalls.