“It wasn’t me, I didn’t do it! He/she/it did it!” Sounds familiar? Often used by children to deflect responsibility from themselves and onto others, this line is a hallmark of the Blame Game. Children in their innocence use it in the purest and most honest form which makes it easy beyond measure to understand their motives. However, with maturity, the game grows in complexity, and a seemingly innocent statement or comment such as “I don’t know, ask so-and-so instead” could potentially be an attempt to push responsibility from oneself to another person. We engage in the blame game on a day-to-day basis whether we like it or not, whether we notice it or not. However, how many of us have ever thought: just how harmful is the Blame Game?
But before we can even begin to talk about the harms of engaging in the Blame Game, we first have to understand why it happens. From an early age, most if not all of us have inculcated and ingrained in us the notion that committing mistakes is a bad thing. After all, making a mistake leads to penalties ranging from beration to caning (depending on how strict one’s parents are). As a result, it becomes a sort of automatic response for us not to want to admit our mistakes, and hence, in order to preserve our credibility, we toss the ball into another’s court, or push it, rather.
So the Blame Game stems largely from an innate fear of punishment, which is understandable. However, its repercussions are hardly constructive, if ever, and can range from bad to worse to the just plain ugly, which is why it is best avoided. Think about it: what happens to the person whom the blame ultimately falls onto? Demotion? Retrenchment? Transferral to some obscure department that no one knows squat about? Like the Greek Pharmakos, the supposed perpetrator is permanently exiled from the company. Otherwise, he is ostracised for the remainder of his term in the organisation.
Yet, in retrospect, if we think about why something goes wrong, we find that it is never the case that one person singlehandedly created the problem. As is said, ‘it takes two hands to clap’; and in an organisation, any end result is the work of whole teams of people. So instead of pushing blame around such that the sole responsibility falls on one person’s shoulders, it is much more constructive if the following options are considered instead:
- If a mistake occurs, do not focus on what went wrong and who did what to contribute to the result. Instead, focus on what can be done to rectify the problem. Doing so, who was the source of the problem becomes immaterial and unimportant, which stops the Blame Game from occurring. Moreover, because everyone is focussed on solutions, the situation turns in favour of the organisation as a climate conducive to the generation of ideas is promoted, and creativity is able to flourish.
- Have a break. Everyone needs some time out. By this we do not mean that it is beneficial to binge on chocolates (if you didn’t get the joke). In times of crisis, it is very easy to get caught up in the overwhelming tide of stress and panic. Under such circumstances, it is easy for one to resort to the Blame Game to protect himself from coming under fire from others. By taking some time off from the chaos, it gives the individual the opportunity to distance himself from the nightmarish scene. This allows him to clear his mind and thus enables him to think objectively and retrospectively about the situation, leaving him with a more nuanced view about the big picture.
- If all else fails, as a last ditch effort to stop the Blame Game from wrecking havoc, initiate a discussion with a third party as a mediator. The purpose of the discussion is to get all pent up rage and discontentment out into the open so that it can be addressed. The mediator is there to prevent fights from breaking out by controlling the environment in which the discussion is taking place. Granted, this makes for an exceedingly difficult job. Thus, it is important that the mediator is someone all parties involved in the discussion respect. This would give the mediator sufficient power over the group, to control the environment in which the discussion takes place.
Blame is not a indication of right and wrong. It is an indication of weakness: blaming others is easy, but to stop oneself from doing it requires a lot of control, discipline and restraint. Blame destroys the working environment by generating incaculable amounts of negative energy. So instead of tossing blame around and causing it to breed and multiply, try to create an open environment conducive for communication, where everyone respects everyone else’s views and opinions.
Credits to Larry Lipman & Fun Team Building for inspiring this article. Check out its source: The Blame Game: Why it Happens and How Employees Should Handle it.