Blame-shifting: A hiding to nothing where everyone loses

By Mark Schröffel

Blame-shifting is a shabby form of leadership behaviour. As is the practice of attacking workers for their apparent failure to deliver. There is usually more to the story, and chances are leadership (or lack of it) lies somewhere near the root cause of the problem.

Here’s a common scenario:

Perhaps for good reason, the manager thinks the project is off the rails and the worker in charge is doing a bad job. The budget is a mess, they are behind schedule and there seems to be limited prospects for success.

Maybe it’s true that the worker is unqualified or incapable of managing the project, but the question of governance and supervision must also be addressed.

Replacing the under-performing worker may well be a necessary part of the solution, however doing so without addressing the larger issue of leadership and oversight would be dangerous reinforcement of a more serious problem.

Too often managers are tempted to deal with the immediate problem at hand, inadvertently overlooking the flaws in the systems of control (which sometimes includes one’s own culpability). Attributing blame is a natural response to a bad outcome, but if we have learnt anything from major catastrophes, disastrous outcomes are merely the final link in a long chain of failures.

Getting into the blame game is simple enough, getting out requires the courage to accept responsibility and willingness to play a role making things right.

Ultimately, a good manager will use positional power to take on the burden of responsibility rather than to divert it.

4 thoughts on “Blame-shifting: A hiding to nothing where everyone loses

  1. Boy, oh, boy you said a mouthful. If the world’s political leaders would only read this, we’d all be in a much better way: “disastrous outcomes are merely the final link in a long chain of failures …. Ultimately, a good manager will use positional power to take on the burden of responsibility rather than to divert it.” Another great bit of insight, Mark. Thanks for posting this!

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