I had discussed "in buddhist terms" the conclusion of in an earlier post when debating "The wrongs other people do to us are the direct result of our past actions" gplus.wallez.name/gBnAkroVezT but multiple presentations can be complementary rather than contradictory…
by Leland LeCuyer:
Who to Blame
shared the linked HBR Blog post, Why You Should Take the Blame by Peter Bregman, with the Good Business community. But what impressed me more than this important article was Sakari's introduction which, in my estimation, was spot on. Here's what Sakari had to say:
This article is probably the most essential piece of advice we can get, both at an individual, personal level and when managing businesses or organisations of any size.
Nearly all our real life problems are ultimately rooted in avoiding responsibility or ignoring consequences and therefore can be solved by taking responsibility and understanding the consequences. For comparison, a closely related concept in ancient philosophies is karma.
I couldn't have said it better myself. But this doesn't mean I have nothing to add.
The Cost of Shifting Blame
Admit it: nobody likes to be blamed. I certainly don't. And the easiest way to avoid blame is by not screwing up in the first place. Furthermore, the best way to never screw up is to never try. Anything. However, as I'm sure you already have calculated, avoiding making mistakes is also avoiding ever accomplishing anything. You can't win if you don't play — as the old New York State Lottery ad used to intone. Thus the first price that we pay when we try to avoid blame is failure to take risks. Obviously some risks are not worth taking, just like some games (like, say, the New York State Lottery) are not worth playing. But, all in all, I suspect that most people are too risk adverse and, consequently, limit themselves by limiting what they think they can ever possibly achieve. I know I do.
If nothing ventured, nothing gained, is the first cost we pay to avoid the infelicities of suffering blame, it is far from the last cost. A second cost is ponied up when we actually do screw up then contrive to shift the blame elsewhere. This HBR article's author, Peter Bregman, details this second cost nicely:
Blaming others is a poor strategy. Not simply because everyone can see through it. Or because it's dishonest. Or because it destroys relationships. Or even because, while trying to preserve our self-esteem, it actually weakens it. There's a more essential reason why blame is a bad idea: Blame prevents learning.
Avoiding blame, therefore, incurs what economists term "opportunity cost": forfeiting the opportunity to learn from this mistake — whether it was made by me, by you, or by somebody else. Thus we fail to snatch this opportunity to improve. We fail to discover some new (and perhaps better) way to accomplish what we set out to do because we never bother to look for a better way.
So Why Do We Still Do It?
OK. I know you know all this. I know all this. Yet the next time something goes wrong, guess what'll happen. I'll immediately look for someone, something — anything — else to blame. Indeed, I'll do it reflexively, just like when the doctor taps my knee. (Anyone know why physicians do this? I sure don't.) In fact it is such an automatic reaction, it takes an extraordinary amount of self-awareness and self-insight to even notice the myriad ways we perform this act of transference. In other words, yes, I know shifting blame is wrong, is harmful, is counterproductive, is as cowardly as it is unwise — yet I do it. I continue to do it. And people being people, I suspect you do too, whoever you are who happens to be reading this.
Whatever we do, we must work with the crooked timber of humanity, the crooked timber of our own humanity. We are weak, flawed instruments. And we pay the price. Perhaps, someday, I will grow tired of the missed opportunities, the risks never ventured, and assign blame to the single being who can actually do something about it: myself. Which is why this is the "the most essential piece of advice" I may receive. as well as the most difficult.