6 Ways to Deal with Blamethrowing
Blamethrowers want others to change.
The opposite of blame is responsibility.
You learn when you take responsibility. Life remains the same when you blame.
6 ways to deal with Blamethrowing:
#1 Change first:
The past persists until you take responsibility for your future.
Yes, others need to change. They screw up. They need to grow. They have weaknesses. They do you wrong. They don’t see the big picture.
Never justify yourself by someone else’s weakness or failure.
Leaders change first.
#2. Eliminate “they”:
Blamethrowers love “they”.
Eliminate “they” from organizational language. “We” is the language of responsibility on teams. “We” have a problem.
David Marquet said, “There is no ‘they’ on the Santa Fe.” (The nuclear submarine he captained.)
#3. No more suggestions:
What happens when you offer suggestions to someone who isn’t ready to change? They explain why it won’t work. It’s a losing battle to explain why it will.
Say, “I hear you saying that idea won’t work. What might work?” Lean back and wait for a response. After they give one, ask, “And what else?”
Stop casting your pearls before swine.
Nothing changes until you find new ways of dealing with persistent dissatisfaction.
#4. Fuel frustration:
When people aren’t willing to change themselves, they aren’t frustrated enough.
Don’t soothe a blamethrower’s frustration. Fuel it.
Don’t encourage tantrums.
#5. Let it hurt:
Dig into pain, don’t soothe it. Ask, “What would you like to do about this?”
You play right into the hands of blamethrowers when you soothe their pain. Use pain as motivation to explore what you want.
“Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself.” Joseph Campbell
#6. Shift to forward facing:
Blamethrowers love the past. Leaders press into the future.
Opportunity waits behind the frustration you’re trying to escape.
How might leaders deal with blamethrowers?
How might we deal with inclinations to blame rather than take responsibility?
Blamethrowers are first cousins to Energy Vampires. We need to eject them too, but that isn’t always possible. As a leader there are times when you just have to throw the Blamethrower right into the fire. You need to make them accountable for ensuring success with the portion of the change they are responsible to implement. However, you need to be right there with them leading the way by example.
To deal with inclinations to blame you need to recognize at that point that it is time to pause and reflect. Take a breath and ask yourself if you want to be part of the problem or if you want to own the solution.
Thanks Joe. You sure turned a phrase when you wrote…throw the blamethrowers into the fire.
Challenging and powerful idea – make them accountable for ensuring success….
Thanks for the very timely post. I have needed these suggestions for some time. I’m dealing with someone in my job who keeps bringing up something that happened over a year ago. He uses this to continue to blame me for everything that goes wrong. I’ve worked on me first and I use “we” language so now I am ready to move on to no more suggestions, fuel frustration, let it hurt, and get back to a shift to forward facing. Thanks so much for the excellent guidebook to help us move forward!
Thanks Jill. It’s surprising that helpfulness gets in the way when we do for others what they should do for themselves.
It can be a painful process to move from blame to responsibility. It also takes some time. Often, when you ask people what they want, they have no idea. (except what they want others to do.)
One thing is certain. It’s a great gift to help someone move from blame to responsibility. Best wishes
Love that label, Blamethrowers. Nice one!
And yes, those are great strategies to use. Future-focusing is the aikido to that act, for sure.
And maybe everyone needs to go to a Firewalking program to learn to insulate their feet from that kind of fire, ya think?
Thanks Dr. Scott. I found the term on urban dictionary. It was in a movie that I never heard of.
Firewalking program…sounds like an organizational opportunity.
Dan I always tell the people I mentor that if you were anyway Responsible for something, you accept the responsibility. I learned this years ago in the very competitive world of public accounting. There you were judged by what you got accomplished first versus what went wrong. So that is where you spent your energy.
It is a concern that many people today will spend more time trying to side step responsiblity and trying to shove others under the bus then they will spent trying to take the risk of driving or at least help steering the bus!
Brad James, The Business Zoo
Thanks Brad. Your comment got me thinking … You never truly lead and avoid responsibility at the same time.
This is a terrific post! Really like point # 2 (eliminating “they” language) and how using that word shifts responsibility to others, turning the focus away from the speaker–and ultimately adding to a “blame” culture. Great job articulating these points! Very helpful.
Thanks Dave. I was thankful to catch David’s talk. Brilliance is usually simple and always actionable.
very helpful (and insightful) post! thanks for making these things so clear, gives me lots to think about and hopefully now i can strategically apply them 😉
I had a good memory and laugh as I started reading this post. When I was first promoted to supervisor, the supervisor I was assigned to follow the first week shared a key piece of advice to being an effective supervisor; blame diversification. He was being sarcastic but “blaming others for our mistakes” was something many others did and were allowed to do so. As you might imagine, they were not effective supervisors. I quickly learned that “we” share the blame even when only one or two make a mistake and “together” we learn from “our” mistakes. Thanks for the post, Dan.
This piece is all to prescient. We have some long-time employees that love blamethrowing and have become very well versed in it. Luckily, we have more new blood now that doesn’t buy it and we are creating a better culture. But we’ve got to be on the lookout for the next blamethrower and do a better job nipping it in the bud. Sharing this piece with others. Thanks!
Also, your techniques are very complementary to your PITSITN acronym… I’ve been using them every since I watched your TedTalk last year. Your asking them to Imagine what they want to see, what they’re Trying and sometimes most importantly what they need to Stop doing. It’s such a great tool.
Excellent advice! Our family had a situation with a new therapist working with my nephew. He never interacted with him or submitted paperwork to the agency. Although he did not blame us directly for his complete lack of responsibility, the excuses were quite fanciful: his brothers had a snowmobile accident, my nephew did not like the therapy tools he was supposed to use (which was an outright lie), and even though he prepared the required documents for the caregiver/case manager team meeting, his printer broke right before he left home to come to the meeting. He is no longer working for the agency.
I love points 3, 4, and 5. They’re so counterintuitive. I’ve recently taken the “no more suggestions” route for some of the areas of my current organization because they’re not ready for change, so I’m taking those ideas and suggestions to other parts of the organization where they’re being received, implemented, and succeeding.
Fueling frustration never seems like a good idea, but in the context of creating change, it makes perfect sense. I suppose it’s one of the better ways to motivate people to alter their surroundings in a healthy way. The same thing applies to not soothing the pain; it’s hard to grow mature if you’re babied.
Dan I find the essence of you post is another view on the scared word – leadership . So may who lead manage but don’t lead.I was one of those folks once, had my failures and learned. In my view, leadership is about accountability , and thus, not blaming. You use the word responsibility and to me it’s a cousin to accountability. I do find, especially with those new to leadership, coaching them on how to be responsible/accountable can really provoke some deep inner turmoil. Those who can work through it I’ve seen become very decent leaders.