"Why should I make the first move when everyone is just pointing the finger at me?"

The scapegoat trap is the hurdle that companies have to overcome in order to optimise processes or even develop completely new products; in short, it is a blockade to innovation.

If employees are afraid of making mistakes, they limit their work to their job description: service by the book. Nobody wants to take a risk, even if it could mean an advantage for the company. The result: an innovation-free zone is spreading.


There is a persistent misconception among managers: mistakes need culprits. This assumption is very effective: it focusses the uncertainty that inevitably arises when mistakes are made on the scapegoat. This restores order. But the consequences are fatal: everyone protects themselves from becoming a scapegoat and does their duty by the book.


Managers must earn the trust of their employees to think for themselves and take risks. It's like a garden: If it doesn't want to grow, the conditions are not yet right. Psychological safety is probably lacking here. What supposedly helps, but in reality is counterproductive, is a strict solution-orientated philosophy that ignores the causes of mistakes or problems just to escape the scapegoat trap. Innovation requires a complete understanding of the problem, which is only possible by shedding light on the root cause. It is therefore up to the manager to get to the bottom of the problems (and at best with all those involved in the team) without blaming the employees.

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Lippmann, Eric (2018). Handbook of Applied Psychology for Managers: Leadership Expertise and Leadership Knowledge.