It is always someone's fault. Since accountability has become such a favorite topic, the modern way of passive-aggressive blaming is now "it's my fault." Business owners are especially good at this adaptive behavior - employees hate accusations, so finger pointing winds up as, "I am in charge, so I blame myself but..."
Sadly, none of the many ways to mask responsibility ever work.
Here's the thing: The best way to deal with failure is by focusing on what quality experts call, "root cause," the underlying and factual basis for a poor outcome. Pointing the finger at someone short-circuits a process that in almost all scenarios reveals what caused the failure in the first place.
While an employee may have played a key role and must be held accountable, she is not the one you should focus your energy on; failure results from a process (or lack of) breakdown.
Take for example the challenge of dealing with an irate customer. Every business must have a procedure for handling customers' dissatisfaction; the procedure outlines all possible complaints and trains employees how to manage objections. Then comes the challenging part; training of the customer service team, followed by verification that the training was effective - from monitoring calls to "mystery shopper" owners must ensure that training is yielding the right behavior and outcomes.
And so, when a customer declares, "I am never shopping here again," the customer service rep can't be blamed. It is a 'system' breakdown.
In the era of "click to unsubscribe" (or losing a customer), we have to remain vigilant when it comes to developing, training and updating internal systems in order to deliver a consistent and superior customer experience.
Borrowing again from quality systems, here's a great question to ask about any aspect of your business: "Do we have objective evidence that X is working?" - note, "objective", as opposed to what you think or what someone said - yes, the cold hard, and measurable facts.
Taking the 'human' out of the equation and focusing instead on your 'system', will get you out of the blame game and into the sobering world of root-causes and the continuous improvement culture that is the foundation of all successful businesses.