The Blame Game

You are a manager and therefore you will be unfairly blamed by some of your team members. But why? Brene Brown, the world famous researcher in shame and vulnerability, gave a great insight in one of her talks: ‘Blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort’.

Unfortunately, as a manager you can cause people to experience pain and discomfort – particularly when it comes giving necessary feedback. Most people are fine – they will take feedback on the chin with the positive, supportive intent with which it is given. However, some people find negative feedback very difficult to hear and acknowledge. Perhaps they are not practised at receiving feedback (shame on their previous manager!), or they have a false belief that they have to be perfect otherwise life as they know it ends. Maybe, if they admit that this bit is wrong, they will have to admit to a deluge of other wrongs.

Possibly they will blame because they are in a high state of discomfort about how to solve the situation. They are not practised at change. They truthfully do not know where to start; they are fearful and confused.

Whatever their reason, if people experience pain and discomfort, they could resort to blame. The good news is that it won’t just be you on the receiving end! Anyone who can be blamed will be blamed, including the government, the state of the economy, the fact it rained yesterday! Irrational and unfair.

So if an individual starts to blame during the conversation, step back, relax and recognise that they could just be discharging their demons. Don’t argue back, defend or starting blaming others yourself. Simply acknowledge their discomfort:

‘I know feedback like this is difficult to hear and it is tough to be told things are not going as well as either of us would want. However this is the situation (quietly repeat the evidence) and we now need to find a way to solve it. Let’s identify the steps you can take to resolve this. For example, a place to start would be…’

To find out how Converse Well can help you turn difficult feedback situations into opportunities to motivate and engage your staff, call 020 8870 9036 or 07734 944 515 or email