Despite far better ways to get ahead, much wasted time & energy go into playing the blame game at work. But when we blame others for all that is wrong, we only wind up dividing and isolating. And we miss the real path toward finding lasting solutions. Or securing our own work success!
What does anyone get from playing the blame game?
Or at least what does anyone THINK they get:
- Blamers get to look better than the other person (or so they think).
- They get to make another person look bad (or try to).
- Finding a scapegoat lets them pass their own mistakes on to someone else (or so they hope).
- At least in the moment, they feel a sense of power.
- Also they feel they’re showing they are not to be messed with.
- Sometimes people use the blame game to simply direct attention away from their own failings or mistakes in general.
Three types of blamers
Bully Blamer – When they play the blame game at work, Bully Blamers have no shame. They point fingers in public and lay it on thick, as if their bluster alone will make the blame stick. Unfortunately, all too often it does if no one stands up for the truth — and for the person(s) being targeted.
Blabby Blamer – A Blabby Blamer passes on blame in gossip, behind the scenes. And not for any real purpose other than being “in the know” — even if not sure what really happened. This may seem harmless, but it can add to an atmosphere where blame is ok. And it still can hurt.
Sneaky Blamer – If they’re really sneaky, they can spread the “news” as a rumor, like a Blabby Blamer. But they do it purposefully. And then they work to fan the flames of blame. Useful as a diversion, and also to mask the facts if they’re really the one responsible for what happened.
How to handle the blame game at work
First, you want to identify it. At times, it can be done in a way where you think you’re getting the real picture. But you’re not. So listen carefully to the way a person talks about others. And notice how they look for work solutions.
“What can WE do together” is a great start. But if someone is always pointing fingers at others (never seeing their role in the situation), you most likely have a real blame gamer there.
What can you do when you see the blame game in action?
- Call them on it respectfully (to minimize spiraling emotions), either to their face or in private. Truth is the best defense.
- Clear up any misunderstandings & outright lies. (Do your research first.)
- Let the person being unfairly blamed know you support them.
- Get the help of coworkers and your boss, so you aren’t out on a blame-free limb alone!
Time for outside help?
In cases where the blame game has become a way of work life, it might call for a group meeting to discuss this behavior. Probably also a good time for an outside communication consultant. If this is happening, there’s probably a lot more going on that needs attention.
Look, we all know a little blaming now and then, especially in the workplace, is fairly normal. But people’s lives and careers can get hurt by it. And if it becomes standard practice, the blame game at work can actually damage the company culture and ability to function well.
So it’s best to do something as soon as possible before things get out of control. No one who really cares about keeping your workplace functioning well can blame you for that!
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