The Blame Game

I never liked watching “The Apprentice” but my family loves it. So I thought I’d give it another try, but had to stop watching after 10 minutes, when Sir Alan Sugar said to a group, who lost a particular challenge… “Go away and find out who’s to blame”.

That is a cameo of traditional macho management that takes its values from the playground and the marketplace.

The following is a description of the show from the Personnel Today blog:

“Sugar revels in his role of business demigod and wields his stubby finger with relish each week, and the audience figures suggest that this celebration of blame his gripped the nation.”

The blogger goes on to share his opinion that like ‘greed’, ‘blame’ is good… and that we (HR) should do more it!

Hang on. Let’s hit the pause button. Or better still the ‘reflect’ button in our minds.

What kind of society do we create by this kind of thinking?

  • Identify who is to blame.
  • Get rid. Replace. Tell them off. Give them what for.
  • Discuss the problem and find the solution.
  • Get in a consultant/expert in to solve the problem.

My sense is that this leads to (and maintains) a macho management, negativity, dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, blame environment.

It’s not jut conceptual. This ‘worldview’ encourages certain types of behaviour. In a blame culture, people behave in blaming ways. These behaviours are self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. It breeds a suspicion, politicking, backbiting, draconian organisational practice and non-risk taking. In these cultures, feedback such as “you should do better next time”, and even training and development events are seen as threats.

I am now going to make a bold claim!

We can change our social world by changing our organising grammar to:

  • Let’s discuss a helpful process for creating change.
  • How can we inquire into and build on the best of what is?
  • What can we help people to learn?
  • How can we value everyone’s contribution?
  • Who else, amongst us, do we need to involve?
  • What processes do we need to put in place to help us improve continuously?
  • How can we develop, coach and mentor people through a project?

In the words of one of my favourite song, its ‘more than words’. It’s about an attitude and a particular perspective on life and how we want our human communities to be (including our work communities).

In the workplace, this counter-cultural way of thinking can potentially help our organisations become more life-giving and supportive places to be. This in turn leads to productively, innovation and creativity… through a sense of collaborative endeavour.

In my humble opinion, this approach is more likely to lead to the achievement of organisational goals than a culture based on shame and blame. Who would you rather work for… Pixar or Amstrad – take your pick.

In a Christian setting, we could and should go further by asking ourselves… “How might we create a ’forgiveness’ rather than a ‘blame’ culture”? What can we do to enable and help our people behave in constructive, encouraging and forgiving ways?

4 thoughts on “The Blame Game

  1. I’m finding your reflections really stimulating so much so I’ve blogged about a couple of your posts myself. The comment on this one is at . I wondered whether the contrast with a culture of blame is not so much a culture of forgiveness as a culture of support … ? See what you think. It’s not a polished piece of writing but I hope you’ll get a sense of what I’m getting at in the post.

  2. Hi Andii – lovely to hear from you. Thank you for helping me reflect more on this. Yes, definitely, the contrast with a culture of blame is a culture of support.

    On reflection, the word ‘forgiveness’ presupposes that the ‘other’ has done something wrong. I may be getting old but I’ve found that the world is very often more complex than that. In most cases, people simply have different points of view or are acting from a different moral logic, paradigm or worldview. When we don’t agree, we tend to label others as wrong. We like to say that we celebrate diversity but in practice we like to work with like-minded people. Of course, hierarchy uses institutional power to legitimise their positions and to discount, neglect or reject others.

    In a support culture, a key value (and skill) would be the ability to hold one’s own position as provisional; accept that one’s view is partial; and, be prepared if necessary to change our minds; or to consider different points of view in order to co-create a way forward. If the situation is really complex, a leadership move might be to provide a process for sense and decision making that feels collaborative.

    Sorry. long winded way of saying, you’re right!

    I’m in the middle of reading Simon Walker’s books on the Undefended life and Undefended leadership, where I’m being challenged to imagine what leadership and organising might look through through the lenses of ‘undefendedness’, ‘vulnerability’, and ‘kenosis’. Perhaps this is why I was thinking about the role of forgiveness.

    Thank you for your support!


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