Credit and Blame at Work

Exploring the psychological forces at play while you work.

Rationalizing your boss's rationalizations

Can your boss go a day without a rationalization?

Credit and blame are at the heart of organizational behavior. Over the years, issues of credit and blame have been among my clients' top concerns. When working well, credit and blame can enable individuals, teams, and entire organizations to confront reality and effectively move forward. When broken, however, credit and blame can derail efforts at any level of an organization.

Among the top complaints my clients have had about credit and blame are that their bosses simply "don't get it", and see the world through biased lenses.

The following are examples of descriptions that apply to an unfortunately large proportion of bosses:

"Rewrites history" in order to unfairly claim credit or deny blame

Blames due to personal biases rather than the facts at hand

Blames others for own errors or mistakes

Blames situational factors rather than own performance for poor results

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Cares more about avoiding personal blame than in contributing to the organization

Cares more about getting personal credit than in contributing to the organization

Claims more credit than he/she is due

Generally holds others to the same standards as him/herself

Is more interested in confirming own beliefs than in understanding the current situation

Is willing to confront own weaknesses and work to remedy them

Is willing to share appropriate credit with other individuals

Rationalizes own actions instead of taking responsibility

Seems to have selective memory when it comes to credit and blame

Takes unfair credit for efforts instead of taking fair credit for outcomes

Views him or herself as above rules that apply to other people

I look forward to hearing from all of you- have you witnessed or experienced the kinds of biases mentioned above? 

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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