The Blame Game is not unique to the IT industry, but we play it well. This game has two rules: 1) The responsibility for anything bad must be avoided or passed onto someone else. 2) You must deny that you are playing the game.
For those of you who just want to work a day without all the extra hassles, it’s important to be able to spot the Blame Game when it is in progress.
I compared notes with a buddy in the IT industry; we agreed that the expression “Who owns this problem anyway?” typifies the verbal component of The Blame Game. Playing this game is bad for the soul and makes you look like a loser. There are self-help steps to take if you catch yourself uttering the above phrase or any of its variations, such as “I’m not the one who wants that data” or “This is normally handled by the DBA” or “This request needs approval.”
Simply pick up a hard-cover set of Oracle manuals – or The Complete Works of Shakespeare – and smack yourself upside the head. Or, if you are too weak from deleting e-mails you think don’t matter to you, just drop the book on your foot from a reasonable height.
The sudden rush of pain that this treatment causes will produce endorphins, which is the body’s natural morphine. At this time clarity – unfortunately for only a few seconds – will come to you, during which time you should consider the ideal flow of decision making within a company. Missing from this process should be:
– asking for approval to help a customer
– passing the buck
– whining that it isn’t your job
– long lunches
The concept of long lunches leads to the physical aspect of the Blame Game. Clever people try to put the blame on other people by simply avoiding contact with the problem in the first place. The signs of this ailment are:
– Never replying to e-mail
– Never documenting anything
– Never speaking in meetings or conference calls
– Keeping busy with other stuff
– Suggesting that others have expertise to solve a problem when they aren’t at the meeting
The treatment to cure yourself of these behaviours is to look in the mirror and say, “Stop being such a frigging weasel.” Weasel-like work habits are born of legitimate experience with the negative actions of insecure managers. Who hasn’t been put in the position of looking bad so that the manager can look good? The solution to this is not the passive aggression of The Blame Game, but open and clear communication about what you have done and what you will do. Let the blame fall naturally back on the real weasels. It’s only a matter of time.
Ford is a consultant in Vancouver who dedicates his career to working with nice people who have a healthy attitude toward customer service, food, sex and chocolate, but not always in that order. He can be reached at RobertFord@quokkasystems.com.