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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Blame Game

Synopsis: For better or for worse, the dynamics of credit and blame are at the heart of every team and organization and make or break every career. Unfortunately, credit and blame are rarely assigned in an objective or fair manner, and individual psychology, team dynamics, and corporate culture all influence, and are influenced by, how credit and blame are given and received. Too often, people and organizations get caught up in the blame game and the wrong people get blamed for the wrong reasons at the wrong time. The result can be that people are demotivated and demoralized, focus more on organizational politics than on getting the job done, and are too afraid to speak up or experiment with new approaches. In this book, we consider academic research and theory, as well as real world examples, that illuminate how human evolution, our own life histories, and our personalities impact how we assign credit and blame to ourselves and others, as well as how we react to the credit and blame we receive from others. Credit and blame are also at the heart of workplace relationships, and are critical in determining how teams will develop and interact with each other. Well explore the situations in which we can all be susceptible to the blame game and will present recommendations for how we can win in our careers by refusing to play. By taking a more mindful approach to credit and blame, individuals, teams and organizations can overcome the blame game and successfully adapt to new challenges instead of remaining stuck in the past. Chapters: Chapter One: How individuals assign credit or blame to themselves, considering how we all tend to give ourselves undue credit when things go well and to shirk responsibility when things go badly, from individuals overestimating their contributions to group projects to CEOs making rationalizations in annual reports. Includes research about attribution theory and self-serving biases. Chapter Two: Insights about how our family experiences, gender and cultural influences shape our ways of thinking about, and behaving in regard, to credit and blame. Covers both social psychology and psychoanalytic perspectives. Chapter Three: How personality and personality types impact how individuals assign credit or blame to themselves and others, considering how tempting it is to hold others to a different standard and to cast blame away from ourselves. Based on years of research in personality psychology, includes most supported personality models and typologies. Chapter Four: How situations influence how we perceive and react to credit and blame. Includes multiple perspective, including individual psychology, interpersonal psychology, and group psychology. Chapter Five: Corporate cultures and how credit and blame is a key determinant of cultures, for better or for worse. Based on research and theories about functional and dysfunctional corporate cultures. Chapter Six: Leadership - how leaders assign credit and blame, and how the atmosphere that they create influences their success or failure, as well as the success or failure of the organizations they lead. Includes leadership theories and examples. Chapter Seven: Builds on the preceding chapters to suggest practical ways individuals and organizational leaders can increase the chances that credit and blame will be a positive force for change and growth rather than a negative force for stagnation and failure. Author Q + A: Why does credit and blame matter? Credit and blame are at the very heart of organizational psychology, and help determine whether individuals learn and grow in their careers or derail, whether teams take an open minded approach to the challenges they face or succumb to the temptation to scapegoat and blame, and whether entire organizations have cultures of trust and problem solving or instead waste time and effort on dysfunctional finger pointing. As an organizational psychologist, every time I work with a client or client organization, the dynamics of credit and blame are what everyone is focused on. My role as a consultant and coach is to help individuals, teams, and entire organizations to reconsider their understanding of credit and blame, in order to stop negative cycles of blame and to create positive cycles of trust and collaboration. Why is this topic timely? Unfortunately, as the economy has tanked there has been a bull market in blame. Whether its financial bailouts or oil spills, it seems every time one turns on the television there is some executive testifying before Congress on some topic or other, blaming other organizations rather than taking any accountability. This culture of blame permeates far too many organizations these days, and the result is that organizations fail to motivate their people, to innovate, or to acknowledge and fix deficiencies. Successful leaders, teams, and organizations are able to fight this trend, and to create environments where people are more focused on admitting mistakes and fixing things rather than on deflecting blame or trying to hoard credit. What kinds of perspectives do you take on credit and blame in the book? The book considers credit and blame from the point of view of individual psychology, relationships between individuals, dynamics within and between teams, and from the point of view of entire organizations. It also looks at leadership, and gives examples of how great leaders set a personal example for managing the dynamics of credit and blame in an open and positive manner. The book approaches credit and blame from both a theoretical and practical perspective, and I endeavored to balance descriptions with prescriptions. Is there anything that a) readers and b) organizations can do to make things better? Yes - there is an entire chapter that outlines specific things that individuals, organizations, and organizational leaders can do to make things better. These suggestions include tools to diagnose and evaluate ones own credit and blame challenges and opportunities, as well as those of others. In addition to specific evaluative tools, this chapter also provides general advice about how to manage credit and blame for oneself and others in a more mindful and strategic way. This chapter should help individuals at every stage of their careers think in a new way about how they react to credit and blame, and how they assign it to others, and should help organizations and organizational leaders think in a new way about how the social psychology of the workplace can be understood and improved. And whats new about this book? I must give credit to many other people for the ideas in this book, ranging from academics to business leaders, as well as many colleagues and clients. What I hope is new about this book is that it ties together theories, practices and examples into a single integrated picture of credit and blame, and considers credit and blame as causes of organizational behavior, rather than just as effects. Hopefully readers will gain a new way of looking at credit and blame, one that will help them more successfully navigate the dynamics of credit and blame in their workplaces and careers.