Sunday Soapbox: Playing the Blame Game

>> Sunday, March 7, 2010

*Steps on soapbox*

I have a pet peeve. I know, I know, I have more than one of them, but this is one of the big ones. I hate it, *hate it*, when any irksome situation becomes an exercise in the blame game.

If there's a big problem, fix it. Knowing how it happened is useful in precluding recurrence and planning future mitigations, but that has nothing to do with the blame game. The blame game is all about making excuses as to why no one is fixing the problem. And sometime's it's even about blaming no one so no one is responsible for fixing the problem. It's away of avoiding addressing the real problem by focusing on trivialities.

They're not working fast enough.

They're pretending it's a panic so they can shove something down our throat.

They're standing in the way.

They're not doing a good enough job.

They didn't ask my opinion.

This is all "___________" fault.

So-and-so dropped the ball.

Well, they do it, too.

They did it first.

Everyone does it.

They could have fixed it decades ago.

They didn't give me the right requirements.

We didn't have the budget to do it right.

We did the best we could under the circumstances.

No one could have seen this coming.

Everyone knew the risks.

The thing about every one of those phrases, none of them do thing one to fix the problem.

People who make a difference, who bring fix problems, who make the world better, they're focused on what needs to be done, not on who has or hasn't done anything. They're too busy getting it done to worry about who ought to be fixing it. If they have the power, they make it better. If they don't have the power, they work and argue and challenge those that have the power until it gets better. And they never stop working for that, for making it better.

They find solutions and alternatives and make attempts. They bring people together and make sacrifices and never stop trying until they have done their best.

Sometimes, it's small things. Finding a solution for a technical problem, helping someone in need, identifying an issue that hasn't been noticed before or an implication associated with it, finding a way to do what seemed impossible.

Sometimes, it's a big thing. Changing the oppressed into the empowered. Tranforming a culture. Finding a path for one's people through the darkness. Changing our perception of the world. Changing our perception of what we can accomplish.

Sometimes, they fail. But they try.

And trying is better than the blame game, every time.

*Steps off soapbox*


  • Jeff King

    Amen sister... Fix it and understand how not to let it happen again.

    If one team member/co worker did it we all did.
    The big problems I see are people care less and ask for more. No one wants to go above and beyond anymore... well at least from what I see.

    I love to fix problems “others” say can’t be done, or resolve a problem that had “others” mystified… that is basically how I got to the position I am in professionally.


  • Project Savior

    The most effective blame game quote you gave was, "No one could have seen this coming." There is never any immediate answer to this because the people who did see it coming and screamed at the top of their lungs to anyone and everyone about a problem are too busy trying to fix the problem to respond.

  • The Mother

    Trying is great. Doing something wrong, just to say you did something? Not so much.

    My kids do that all the time, just to make me mad enough to do it myself.

  • Stephanie Barr

    I suppose, if you could verify the motive, the Mother, you'd be right. I don't think most people work that hard to do the wrong thing. People trying can do the wrong thing because they're driven by motives aside from the greater good, too (lloking busy, wanting to make some subset happy-damn everyone else). Those aren't the folks who try I'm talking about.

    I'm talking about people trying to do the right things for the right reasons. That also doesn't preclude doing the wrong things; people make mistakes. But that's still better in my opinion. In physics, there's such a thing as inertia (as I'm sure you know). Status quo is a horrible incidious thing that keeps anything from happening. Making changes, even poorly thought out ones, can get things moving. Ofttimes, particularly when sitting in a high-friction environment, changing direction when you realize you're going the wrong way is much easier that getting moving to begin with.

    I give people rubbing two sticks together all night long to light a candle far more credit that those who are cursing the frickin' darkness because they don't want to look silly.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Actually, in my opinion, paranoia about doing the "wrong" thing ends up being part and parcel of the blame game: another excuse to do nothing.

  • The Mother

    I was thinking along the lines of the duct-tape response, rather than the overhaul. The kind of thing one does with the only motive being to solve a problem without delving into the root causes.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Okay, I can completely appreciate that. Treating symptoms (often doing so only when they become emergencies) instead of the disease is a piss-poor way of doing anything. And far too common.

    I can't argue that I don't see this, people "too busy" putting out fires to keep them from starting up in the first place. There is something to be said for doing it right the first time. If I had fifty cents for each time someone told me "We just don't have time to do it right." You mean, as opposed to doing it three or four times?

    That would, of course, be my preference.

    Either, however, is preferable to standing on the sidelines, wringing one's hands in my opinion, which is how I see the blame game.

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