• Blamestorming is toxic and gets you nowhere
  • It’s a natural response to screwing up but it’s exhausting for everyone
  • Shift your approach towards creative problem solving instead

It's like the clock is taunting you.

Still not finished?

You’re up against a deadline. You’ve got three big presentations and reports to write this week and you’ve barely written a word of any of them.

And as if that’s not bad enough, you’ve had a ton of fires to put out too. You don’t have time for this shit. You’re drowning in work and under the pressure but some of your coworkers don’t seem to give a fuck whether the project makes it or not.

Pointless Pete is doing what he does best. Scrolling through social media and cyberloafing instead of hunkering down on his report that's due by lunchtime.

It's 11 already and there's zero chance of him meeting the deadline.

It opens up an opportunity to throw some shade and strike a low blow.

You could make progress on the project without the report. It’s not totally dependent on Pete coming through today. You’re behind too and it’s having just as much impact on the deadline.

But you say it loud anyway.

“I wish Pete would get this shit together on this project.”

You know it’ll subtly shift some of the blame onto Pete and make sure everyone knows it’s not all on you.

Given Pete's track record in dropping the ball, you know it'll hit home.

And what do you know? Seconds later, your casual comment about Pointless Pete seems to have hit a nerve.

Now everyone piles on their gripes about him too.

“Yeah, Pete never pulls his weight. We always have to pick up the slack. I’m so sick of it.”

“Pete is so lazy. He’s super useless.”

“What’s the point of Pete? He never contributes anything.”

“It was 100% his fault that we missed the deadline for the last group project.”

You may not realize it but you’ve just triggered a blamestorm.

What started out as a throwaway comment has suddenly turned Pete into public enemy number one. He’s even been blamed for an entire project deadline going up in smoke.

Shifting the blame like this makes you feel better for a little while. But it’s not going to change anything. It’s not going to make Pete any more inclined to hold up his part of the bargain. If anything, it’ll have the opposite effect and cause even more issues.

What you really need is to adopt a creative problem-solving mindset that favors solutions over blame.

And who knows, it might just start shifting the company culture.

Why Blamestorming Happens

First up, let’s define what blamestorming is and why it happens. It starts with one person but it can quickly take on a life of its own.

Blamestorming tends to happen in a group setting, with multiple people dishing out the blame.

One comment or accusation is backed up by someone else and the next thing, it's a free for all. Just like your throwaway comment about Pointless Pete.

Then, it spreads like wildfire to other people and topics.

It spreads fast because it’s easier to start or join in on the blame game rather than look at what’s really going on.

It’s pure distraction.

You don’t need to hold yourself accountable. It’s about protecting your ego and personal brand, even if that means throwing someone under the bus.

When a blamestorm hits, the victim may have nothing to do with the problem but they get the blame anyway.

But in this case, Pointless Pete is one of the problems. You’re just deflecting attention from the fact you don’t have your shit together either.

It’s ugly and toxic, and it hurts everyone.

The folks over at Braincraft explain exactly how damaging a blamestorm can be.

VIDEO: Why People Blame Others
YOUTUBE: BrainCraft
LENGTH: 04:03
Summary points:
  • Pessimistic and narcissistic personalities are more likely to start a blamestorm
  • People who are exposed to blame-shifting are far more likely to do the same
  • This “blame contagion” reduces creativity and decreases performance 

Why Blamestorming Is A Bad Idea

There are lots of reasons why blamestorming doesn’t work.

Blamestorming is a fast track to being unproductive. The blame gets doled out but nothing is actually achieved other than the fleeting satisfaction of putting someone or something else down.

Everyone is too busy passing the buck instead of putting in the time and effort of finding a solution.

And when someone is blamed, they immediately go on the defensive. It's a natural response, even if they're at fault.

No one wants to be the bad guy who lets the team down so they try to deflect the blame to someone or something else.

The all guns blazing approach means they'll never accept responsibility so it's completely pointless.

It's unproductive in other ways too.

Mistakes are covered up to avoid the inevitable blamestorm so there's no chance of finding a solution. It creates a culture of fear and mistrust.

If you shift the blame to someone else, you don’t actually gain any power. You lose control instead and then eventually, shit hits the fan at work.

You’re telling yourself and everyone else that you played no role so you have no opportunity to take control. You’re making yourself powerless by deflecting the blame. 
Blamestorming is a great way to ruin your mental health, whether you're the victim or the perpetrator.

It keeps you in a negative mindset. You’re always looking for the worst in situations so you can find something or someone to blame. It’s not healthy.

Blamestorming can also make you sick. The theory is that blame can trigger the body’s fight or flight response.

When you’re constantly pointing the finger at someone else, your body keeps getting flooded with stress hormones. It raises your blood pressure and increases immunity. Over time, your heart health can really suffer.

It makes sense when you think about it. The ones doing the blaming invest a lot of energy into backing up their accusations while the person being blamed focuses on fighting their corner.

It leads to a shitty company culture where no one wants to take responsibility for mistakes. You're always on your guard, ready to defend yourself.

It's exhausting, toxic and makes managing work stress an impossible task.

You may not be able to change the company culture all by yourself but you can control your mindset. At least that way, you won’t be responsible for dishing out blame. 

Shifting Your Mindset Away From Blamestorming

Forget blamestorming. You’ll never get anywhere with that approach. Taking a team-based or collaborative approach is the way to do it.

You need to move your mind into problem-solving mode for this to work.

This involves looking for creative ways to move forward without dishing out negativity. This can be incredibly hard if you’ve not had much practice at this.

It’s natural to go into default blame mode but you’ve gotta snap out of it. It’s not helping you or anyone else. 

1) Be More Open And Transparent

Blamestorms usually happen because they’ve become part of company culture. The expectation is that it’s acceptable and normal behavior. You might not be able to change a toxic work environment all by yourself but you can create new expectations for yourself.

Transparency and accountability are the solutions.

Instead of shifting the blame and doing everything you can to avoid taking responsibility for screw-ups, you need to step up.

Having someone to hold you accountable helps too. There’s no room for slacking off when you’ve got to report your progress to your accountability buddy.

Workflows can be a game-changer here too if your company uses them.

Workflows ensure everyone knows exactly what’s expected of them and there’s no excuse for not being clued in on what needs doing and when. If a deadline gets missed, the impact on other people and the bigger picture is plain to see. 

2) Defuse Situations As Quickly As Possible

Blamestorms escalate quickly. The trick is to defuse a situation before it gets a chance to snowball.

Don’t let arguments play out in public. They’re more likely to attract an audience and lead to blamestorms. If you need to confront a coworker or they attack you full-on, take the shitshow somewhere else.

In an ideal world, you’ll be able to schedule a date and time to meet privately and say what needs to be said. This gives both parties a chance to cool down so you’re not hurling insults in the heat of the moment. It also gives less opportunity for other people to get involved and pile on more negativity.

But it doesn’t always work out like this.

Sometimes you’ll have to find a way to defuse the situation on the fly before it gets out of hand. And let’s face it, giving yourself a timeout when you’re about to lose your shit may be the only way to avoid a full-scale meltdown.

Do whatever you have to stay level-headed. It’ll help you avoid giving ammunition that could put you in the firing line for a blamestorm. 

3) Show Empathy

Everyone screws up. Everyone. Your coworkers are only human - even Gossipy Gail and Crazy Chris.

You don’t know what’s going on with them and what they might be dealing with outside of work.

Having empathy towards them can avoid a big blamestorm.

We’ve all screwed up because our mind wasn’t in the game. Shit happens and blocking it out just isn’t an option sometimes. As long as it’s not happening all the time, you can cut them a bit of slack, right?

Instead of starting or joining in with the finger-pointing, try thinking about the situation from another perspective. You’ll be more inclined to find a proactive solution rather than jumping on the blamestorm bandwagon.

So, how do you show empathy if you’re only just holding it together in their presence?

Communication is key. And that means really actively listening. Not just half-listening while you’re doing something else and getting ready to jump in with your response as soon as they take a breath.

With active listening, you’ll get to know exactly where they’re coming from. You can imagine how you’d feel if you were in their shoes.

If you really communicate with Pointless Pete, his procrastination might be less about laziness and more about overwhelming bullshit work or personal issues. But if you don’t communicate, you’ll never find out.

4) Look For Solutions

Focus on solutions, not who was to blame. Obviously, you’ll have to go back and examine the root cause of the problem but this can be done in a way that doesn’t assign blame to anyone in particular.

Being creative means you’re looking at problems differently. It’s not about taking a linear approach to problem-solving. Traditional problem solving can fall flat. You need to be willing to show some mental flexibility and think outside the box.

The first step is to brainstorm potential solutions. At this stage, there are no right or wrong ideas. You’re just doing a brain dump of anything that might work.

Write down every idea that comes to mind, even the ones that seem stupid. Don’t try to sort out the “good” and “bad” ideas at this stage, though. Just get in the zone and let your thoughts play out. You can sort everything later.

The next step is to evaluate the ideas you’ve come up with. Not all of them will be workable solutions and that’s okay. But hopefully, you’ve got one that has the potential to actually solve the problem. Then you can create an action plan around it. 

5) Prioritize Collaboration

A collaborative approach is the quickest way to a solution. The trouble is, a blamestorming culture can create a huge amount of mistrust and hostility, which doesn’t bode well for collaboration with your coworkers.

It’s much harder to speak openly about your ideas when you’re afraid it’ll make you a target. Quitting the blamestorms is a big first step towards a positive, successful collaborative culture.

If your creative brainstorming didn’t bring about a solution, getting other people involved is a must. They might have ideas that didn’t occur to you. They also might have a different perspective or insider knowledge that can change the narrative.

For Pointless Pete, they might have the empathy to turn him into a team member that you can at least halfway rely on. It can be a chance to make a real connection with him and others.

Get Off The Blame Train & On The Team Bandwagon

Blamestorms are a natural reaction to problems, especially if the company culture is to pass the buck and absolve yourself of all responsibility and accountability.

When a project runs into trouble or SHTF, it usually results in a blamestorm. This kind of behavior is pointless and toxic, whichever side of the battle you’re on. It creates a shitty culture that does no favors for anyone.

Instead of blamestorming, you need to get creative. If you can’t find a solution on your own, team up with other people to get there quicker.

It’s a big mindset shift. You’re not looking for someone to blame; it’s all about how to fix the problem, keep the momentum and move on.

So next time you catch Pointless Pete slacking off and putting a project in peril, you can check yourself before you start a blamestorm and instead, start from a better place of problem-solving.

Maybe become his accountability buddy? 😉

Feel Better,

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