October 30, 2005

Good day, team,

Your challenge this week is not to blame other people when things go wrong.

We all fear failure to some extent. And when we fail, we often blame other people around us for mistakes we’ve made. Sometimes we can’t control the outcome of our actions because of natural occurrences: “Oh well, the hurricane caused the delay,” or “Because of the power outage, we weren’t able to complete the project on time.” But when we think we should be able to control the outcome of our work (it’s often in our job descriptions), we can’t accept failure, and we blame someone else if things going awry.

Earlier this week, I was talking with a client who just six months ago praised his managers for the work they were doing and the success they were having. Now, he blames the same managers “for not doing their job.” I was surprised to hear him make this claim, and yet I realized that, because he’s afraid of failing, he’s making the situation someone else’s fault.

The truth is that everyone involved knows what’s really been going on, and no amount of blame or judgment is going to change the outcome. And everyone finds it upsetting to see other people get blamed for things that are not their fault. In the long run, the truth always emerges, but in the meantime, watching people get blamed unfairly is hard on everyone. No one likes to be blamed, and so we feel bad for anyone who’s on the receiving end of this negative emotion.

Your challenge this week is to pay attention to your impulses to blame others. Is it really true that a bad situation is their fault? Is the failure really your responsibility? Most of us work on teams; when we fail, is it just certain peoples’ fault, or is the whole team involved? Can anything come to a good end by your blaming others?

Blaming becomes a bad habit if not checked early on. It erodes trust and creates an unhealthy environment where people strike out at each other and defend themselves. It robs us of the chance to examine our own behaviors and make changes that will improve our performance and self-esteem. I also found it worth noting that according to a local Chinese herbalist, blame is one of the five causes of disease, the others being anger, criticism, hatred and boredom/annoyance.

Try to notice who and what you blame, and take responsibility yourself instead. You may find that if you stop blaming others, you’ll be kinder to yourself about adverse circumstances you can’t control.

Have a great week!

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