Taking responsibility can be easier said than done. Blaming someone else or external circumstances can be a way to deflect ownership, soften mistakes, and protect an individual’s ego.
Blame Is Everywhere
We see leaders blame their subordinates. Employees blame their leaders. Children blame their siblings. Athletes blame the referees. Parents blame the teachers.
A motorist blames slick roads. A manager blames competing priorities. A salesman blames a poor economy. When a deadline is missed, it’s easy to blame a shortened timeline. We all know how to point a finger.
Psychologist Aaron Beck called blaming a cognitive distortion. These distortions are errors in our thinking which cause use to believe things that are untrue.
David Burns, author of “Feeling Good,” describes those who fall into this errant way of thinking, saying, “they blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem.” In his companion handbook, Burns likens placing blame like playing hot potato – it keeps coming back to you.
Avoid The Dangers of Blaming
We stand little to gain from blaming others or circumstances for our mistakes or misfortunes. Perhaps we put off feeling embarrassed, guilty, or hurt. But that won’t last. We should avoid the error of blaming for 3 specific reasons.
1. Decreases our sense of control.
By blaming others for our problems, pain, and mistakes we relinquish control of our lives to others. This kills autonomy and tells our brains that we have little control over our lives or circumstances. Hopelessness can soon set in.
2. Decreases our optimism.
When we blame others and give up control over our emotions and actions we can become pessimistic. We feel trapped, stuck, or hand-cuffed. We lose hope for successful outcomes in our work, relationships, and lives. We don’t think our time, energy, or efforts will make a difference. Thus, pessimism prevails.
3. Prevents us from taking responsibility.
By blaming others or our circumstances, we are denying how we contributed to the issue, problem, or poor outcome. Denying our degree of responsibility diminishes trust and respect with our teams, colleagues, and families. When we deny ownership we tell those around us that we aren’t in this together and that they are on their own.
To help you avoid the dangers of blaming as a leader, check out this free checklist 5 High Impact Areas to Assess in Your Leadership Evaluation.
Own Up and Take Responsibility
Passing blame and pointing fingers inhibits your effectiveness. On the other hand, taking responsibility increases trust from those around you. Claiming ownership increases your optimism and helps you identify what’s controllable in sports, work, and life.
- Book: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns, M.D.
- Post: Let Go Of What You Can’t Control And Reap Massive Rewards
- Post: Optimism: Your Secret Weapon