Can You Blame Blamers for Blaming?

Rework Math. This image is CC0!

This question may sound silly, but it reveals a real problem. What can you do when confronted with blaming? How should you react when somebody else accuses you of being a blamer? No matter if at home or at work: an atmosphere of blaming is toxic.

The dilemma: everybody has the potential to become a blamer – you, I, your boss, your subordinates, your spouse, your children, your parents, …

So, can you blame blamers for blaming? Of course you can. Should you? Probably not. Will you? Guaranteed. It is simple. When you confront somebody with the fact that he or she is blaming, you end in a double bind trap. That person may be listening very well with the “blame ear.” No matter how diplomatically and friendly you address the issue, that person will hear blame.

Hard core means that you throw a tantrum like a five year old. Accuse that person of blaming. Be loud and obnoxious. Threaten to quit any conversation unless the blaming stops. In other words – blame the blamer for blaming and totally ignore the issue that started the discussion. Then go away. You will not solve any real problems for the time being. Wait and hope that the blamer comes to his mind.

Hard core is risky. You may end up in a real war, which usually means lose/lose. In very rare cases it may be helpful to let somebody feel how it is to be at the receiving end of blame. In most cases, this strategy will backfire and ruin a relationship forever.

Obviously, ignoring blame is less risky and the preferred strategy. That does not mean you should ignore the whole conversation. Just look at the message that is left if you remove the blaming part:

Starting from that, look for root causes and solutions together with the blamer. Additionally it may be a good idea to look for the root causes of the blaming attitude. Maybe you need to change something, our you can help your opponent to remove that root cause.

Just in case you think here comes some know-it-all: I regularly fail to apply the “ignore” strategy myself. Please be kind and don’t blame me for that.

When was the last time you had to deal with blaming? What did you do?

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2 comments on “Can You Blame Blamers for Blaming?

  1. Joel Gross on said:

    This post hits the nail on the head. Not blaming is almost a skill that needs practice to perfect. I saw a stat this week that, according to Lean practitioners, the number one reason Lean fails is lack of senior leadership support. In other words, the people preaching not to blame others are the same ones blaming leaders for their failures! Rather than name, blame and shame, get to the root cause and have a productive discussion.

    • Jens R. WoinowskiJens R. Woinowski on said:

      A very interesting observation indeed. Maybe somebody did not convince the leaders that life will be better for them with Lean, too? Let’s blame the Lean consultants 🙂 OK, I know, irony does not work on the internet. Cannot resist from time to time anyhow…

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