25 November 2009

Blame Game(smanship)

"Merely observing someone publicly blame an individual in an organization for a problem -- even when the target is innocent -- greatly increases the odds that the practice of blaming others will spread with the tenacity of the H1N1 flu, according to new research from the USC Marshall School of Business and Stanford University."

Okay, I'm listening.

"Nathanael J. Fast, an assistant professor of management and organization at the USC Marshall School of Business and Larissa Tiedens, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford, conducted four different experiments and found that publicly blaming others dramatically increases the likelihood that the practice will become viral. The reason: blame spreads quickly because it triggers the perception that one's self-image is under assault and must be protected."

No? Really? Stupid politicians. What else have they done?

"'When we see others protecting their egos, we become defensive too,' says Fast, the study's lead author. 'We then try to protect our own self-image by blaming others for our mistakes, which may feel good in the moment.' He adds that in the long run, such behavior could hurt one's reputation and be destructive to an organization and further to our society as a whole."

Oh, "protecting egos"? As in "insecure"? Maybe even "cowardly"?

"Fast says that when public blaming becomes common practice -- especially by leaders -- its effects on an organization can be insidious and withering: Individuals who are fearful of being blamed for something become less willing to take risks, are less innovative or creative, and are less likely to learn from their mistakes.

'Blame creates a culture of fear," Fast said, "and this leads to a host of negative consequences for individuals and for groups.'"

We can see that. Nice to know there's some science behind Our common sense here.

"Anyone can become a blamer, Fast says, but there are some common traits. Typically, they are more ego defensive, have a higher likelihood of being narcissistic, and tend to feel chronically insecure."

Someone whose super-ego and id frolic as self-love while the clash makes him/her anxious about his/her self-worth... That person would need public attention and evidence of external power to validate themselves and anything that threatens that power/attention construct must be rejected or at least redirected. Therefore creating an internal power/attention construct would reduce the need for defensiveness and blaming. Right?

"The tendency for blame to spread was completely eliminated in a group of participants who had the opportunity to affirm their self-worth."

That's what I said. 

Okay: Blaming is bad. Blaming comes from defensiveness which comes from incompetence and insecurity. (C'mon, if you're good at what you do and feel secure, you can shrug off mistakes.) Insecurity can't be cured by force...but incompetence can, especially in government and especially willful incompetence such as malfeasance or fraud.

Blaming is not productive. It merely points a finger at the iceberg as the ship takes on water. But pinpointing, exemplifying, highlighting, indicating, noticing, these can be often confused with blaming when in fact, blaming is defensive and the others are--in a way--offensive: they aim to take action. Saying that Fool A screwed up is blaming; saying that Fool A has screwed up in similar fashion several times and and is patently unfit to be in the position he is in is pointing out a trend and coming to a conclusion. (Exhibit A: William Ubiñas, former Federal Affairs Director of the local (un)Department of (Mis)Education.)

As a commentator, there is a fine line between blaming and being an analyst. In a society where "Not Me!" and "Cover My ass!" have become as ubiquitous as breathing, anyone who seems harsh and negative against others can be seen as contributing to the problem. But there's a crucial difference: blaming is part of the citizen's duties in a democracy. Assigning responsibility for what goes wrong is Our ultimate power with government. And yet, very few of Us do so unless political partisanship is involved, so We now get these constant ridiculous spectacles from Our government day after day and only a handful of Us do Our duty. In a fairy tale ending, everyone will point the finger of blame about the Emperor's parading unclothed, but very few would come right and say "The Fool is naked. And stupid."

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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