I learned the high cost of blame when I was a lending officer and needed approval for a large loan. The loan committee turned it down, so I had to tell the customer his loan was declined. The bank manager stopped by my desk and told me, “Don’t blame the loan committee – it makes you look weak.” That stuck with me.
If the loan committee approved it, of course, I would have taken all the credit! Since they didn’t, however, my first reaction was to blame them to avoid conflict and responsibility. And it would have been true – they did decline it. Would blaming them really make me look weak?
Why is blame such a knee-jerk reaction in the first place? On the surface, it feeds our need for control and protects our ego. It makes us out to be the good person (or the victim.) It allows us to relinquish accountability and responsibility for any of the problems. And, face it, it’s hard to show grace under pressure.
Blame is another way of putting others down and pushing them away. But what is the high cost of blame to you as a business leader? Consider these things:
- Power – you lose it when you hand power off to someone or something else
- Positive influence – you miss the opportunity to demonstrate your control and skill
- Personal growth – you can’t learn and improve by shirking responsibility
- Empathy – failing to realize that nobody’s perfect and that we’re all trying
- Healthy relationships – blaming demoralizes, so people feel devalued and judged
Blame is contagious, yet so is owning up. When I met with that customer, I told him I was sorry, but I was not going to grant his loan. I used the same reasons that the loan committee had given me. I didn’t blame the loan committee (or even mention them,) and I actually felt empowered with that approach!
There is a high cost of blame. Try not to do it and see how it feels. You’ll be surprised. You haven’t peaked yet!