Credit and Blame at Work

Exploring the psychological forces at play while you work.

Energy-killing blame, energy-creating credit

Creating energy with credit and blame

I had a fascinating conversation yesterday with Tony Schwartz, the author of "The Way We're Working Isn't Working" and founder of The Energy Project. Tony's work is focused on how we can meet four key energy needs:

Sustainability (physical)

Security (emotional)

Self-expression (mental)

Significance (spiritual)

At work and in our lives in general. We discussed the linkages between credit and blame and energy in terms of careers, workplace relationships, dynamics within and between teams, and in terms of organizational culture and leadership.

It occurred to me that harmful dynamics of credit and blame, which are unfortunately all too common in many organizations, are harmful in terms of killing energy or turning it negative. If an individual doesn't feel fairly credited for his or her contributions, soon his or her energy and motivation will wane. If two people working together begin to focus on who gets the credit rather than on what they are trying to achieve, energy gets redirected from collaboration to competition. The same is true within teams and between teams, and in organizational cultures overall- cycles of credit and blame can become vicious and can kill good energy and enhance negative energy. In successful organizations, people are willing to take blame themselves when things go wrong, and credit others when things go right, creating a virtuous cycle of positive energy-enhancing dynamics.

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By becoming more mindful of how we both assign, and react to, credit and blame, and by considering how patterns of credit and blame are either increasing or decreasing energy in our careers, our workplace relationships, and in our teams and organizations, we can learn to conserve, renew, sustain, and increase professional and organizational energy.

 

Ben Dattner, Ph.D., is a workplace consultant, an industrial and organizational psychologist, and an adjunct professor at New York University.

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