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We noticed a problem which not only could stop our project but in the worst case could impact our company (unlikely but possible).

The colleague, who introduced the problem, has a history of pushing away the blame. The colleague didn't actively pinpoint to someone else, but that still threw a bad light on others. The area of work was handed over multiple times, once I also was responsible but I didn't catch the problem.

As the colleague is close to our boss, I fear that I won't have a chance to correct the facts afterwards (how to do that is discussed in many other questions on this website).

Is there any possibility to make clear in advance that I'm not to blame without leaving a bad impression?

Currently I think by doing that I will start the blame game or people might be suspicious that it's my fault because I'm being defensive.

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  • How is your rapport with the manager? – solarflare Mar 13 '19 at 22:47
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    Is your team using Agile or Waterfall project management? In the former case, just bring it up in your daily stand up meeting. Mentioning problems you’ve discovered is literally one of the things they’re for. – nick012000 Mar 13 '19 at 22:50
  • @nick012000: no, we're working very independently, the boss isn't involved on a daily basis. – J. Doe Mar 14 '19 at 6:05
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A good starting point would be to communicate your findings to stakeholders in a manner that propose how to tackle this problem and with ample appreciation for the fact that the problem was finally brought to light. Don't focus on the history.

The stakeholders can be your boss(es) or other members of the department. Your findings should be a succint, blame-less description of what the problem is, not how it came about or who caused it.

Your proposal on how to tackle it need not be an actual solution, but can really just be any next steps that seems reasonable - hold a meeting, stop the press, whatever. Not only will it show that you're on top of it and pro-active, but it's really the right thing to do, politics of the current situation aside.

And not least, make sure to emphasize how much you (and by extension your project and company) should appreciate that the problem has come to light. Give a shout-out to those that found it. Look at the positive side of having realized that there is a problem.

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  • Do you mean I can only try to avoid the whole blame game, but I cannot do anything specifically to avoid blame on me until the game starts? – J. Doe Mar 14 '19 at 6:07
  • Yes, I would suggest initially avoiding the blame game entirely by announcing your findings in the neutral/positive manner suggested, where you focus on describing the problem, the way forward, and appreciation of it coming to light. Show that it's irrelevant who might be to blame. "Kill them with kindness" actually can work to defuse a potential conflict. – Richard Flamsholt Mar 14 '19 at 9:02

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