The Paradox of Blame

Blame, when appropriately dispensed, assigns responsibility for a past occurrence.  The event that occurred is typically one which resulted in a negative outcome.  As in, “Hey, it’s all your fault.  You screwed up.”  The paradox is, there is an interesting opportunity which becomes available when blame is not appropriately assigned.  As in, “Hey it’s your fault.  You screwed up but… (wink-wink everyone knows you really were not the one who screwed up.)”  The general rule is, none of us wants to accept blame, especially when we were not the responsible party.  There is an exception to this rule and that is when everyone knows you really were not the person responsible for the bad outcome.  This is sometimes referred to as, “taking one for the team.”  By accepting blame, you now become the responsible person (and better team player).  The opportunity granted to you for accepting blame is that you can now fix the problem caused by the person who was previously responsible.  If you fail, then it really is your responsibility.  If you succeed you have now earned the right to the new position of responsibility.  Since you were not responsible in the past, you were not in a position of authority to affect the outcome. By accepting blame, under certain circumstances, you can advance to a new position of responsibility.  This assumes, of course, you learned from your predecessor’s’s mistakes and can affect a good outcome. It’s a risky tactic but one that comes with rewards if performed effectively.  The key is to recognize and guarantee the quid pro quo.  In exchange for accepting blame, you will be given the opportunity to correct the problem.  Therein lies the paradox.  Given the choice between blaming the person truly responsible, who has proven they don’t know how to fix the problem, and “blaming” the person who is not responsible, who can fix the problem, blame sometimes tends to find the problem-solver. This is more common when responsibility is distributed to many individuals, and difficult to assign, or when saving face for the responsible person is warranted, for whatever reason.  It’s an odd thing to say but sometimes “blame” is another way of saying opportunity.

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