Monkey Puzzle Blog


How to deal with Blame Games

Have you ever wondered how to end ‘blame game’ behaviour at work? Here are the top tips from the experts:

Eleanor Shakiba; author of Difficult People Made Easy

When blame game tactics are at play, you’re likely to find lots of ‘us and them’ style stories being told. Employees who tell these stories usually cast themselves as victims and maintain that their ‘difficult co-workers’ are persecutors. If managers or team leaders step into rescuer roles, the blame game will continue. So it’s important that managers and supervisors remain neutral and objective. One way to do this is by reframing the issue:

Once an employee thinks differently about a conflict, they’ll find it easier to stop playing the victim role. Your job is to help employees put aside feelings such as anger, so they can view the problem objectively. To do this, you can use reframing techniques. Try saying:

  • It sounds as though your relationship with [name] needs to change
  • Lately you’re finding it hard to get on with [name]
  • Then focus the employee about what they can do to resolve the situation.

Karen Meager, co-author of Real Leaders for the Real World

Overt blame games are easy to spot but covert ones are less easy and can spread like poison through a team. Covert blame games are caused by passive aggressive behaviour. Passive aggressive behaviour is behaviour that demonstrates the person thinks something or someone is wrong, but it is displayed in a passive way rather than a direct way and includes gossip, complaining about people behind their backs, moaning, teasing, banter, sarcasm, setting other people up for a fight and belittling. Deal appropriately with passive aggressive behaviour by:

  • Not getting drawn into gossip, teasing or other behaviour which could be described as ‘harmless’ or ‘just a bit of fun’. Instead break the pattern by taking the conversation back to something appropriate or asking ‘how is this helping us?’
  • Giving feedback to individuals who engage in this behaviour. Some people are unaware of the damage their behaviour could cause, so start by offering them ways to deal with the situation better.
  • Reward behaviour that is healthy. People who take responsibility and demonstrate assertive behaviour should be rewarded. Make sure you don’t reward passive aggressive behaviour.

Read the full article including author and NLP Master Trainer John McLachlan’s advice on dealing with blame games when they happen in a group here. You can also sign up to receive the Great Minds Think Differently series direct to your inbox if you wish. How Healthy is your Workplace? Play the quick quiz to find out.

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