Productive Conflict: Stop Blaming

“Yeah, I ran over my time limit for the meeting, but if Susan had been on time, we could have started the meeting on time.”

“Oh, sorry about that. Rickie forgot to include her report. She had information I needed, so mine didn’t get done.”

“If you weren’t so uptight, we could have more fun around here. Why are you so serious anyway?”

“Dave didn’t fill the coffee machine again, so the coffee isn’t ready yet.”

The blame game is live and well.

We’ve all taken part in it. Blaming others is desirable, because it takes the heat off of us and points it in a different direction. On the surface, life is easier when something isn’t your fault…even if it wholly or partly is.

Should Susan have been on time?
Should Rickie have provided the report?
Should you loosen up a little every once and a while?
Should Dave have filled the coffee machine?


But what about these responses instead?

“Yes, I ran over my time limit. Sorry about that. I’ll do a better job at watching the clock next time.”

“Could I get an extension on that report, please? I wasn’t able to get my part finished yet. I can have it for you in an hour, though.”

“It’s been a really busy week and we’re all tired. Could we do just half of our cleaning list tonight and spend the rest of the time watching a movie together?”

“Oh man, the coffee isn’t ready yet. I apologize. I’ll get it started right away.”

How did you perceive the people playing the blame game? How do you perceive them now?

They’ve lost nothing in the latter examples, and the same core information got delivered. In fact, they’ve probably gained some respect, not only from observers of the situation, but also from Susan, Rickie, you, and Dave.

When we engage in the blame game, others notice.

Not only that, but your brain begins to release dopamine, which is the reward and pleasure transmitter of your brain. Your mind is rewarding you for dodging the bullet, so you subconsciously continue to blame. In turn, this creates resentment toward those you are blaming and so you keep blaming. It’s a vicious cycle.

While it may be satisfactory at the time, blaming others comes with a high price. And as we’ve seen, our responses make a world of difference.

So instead of blaming someone else, even if it’s partially their fault, leave them out of it. Apologize for your part, create a solution, and move on. You’ll be respected for it.

Stopping the blaming of others may come more naturally to those with the S style and i style than for those with the D style and C style.

Productive Conflict is how good decisions are made. It’s how ideas are put on the table, discussed, and made better. It’s how businesses get results.

Through trust, team-building, and relationship-building, productive conflict is 100% attainable for everyone.

Remember, because conflict varies depending on the situation and the people involved, there is no right answer in how to make it productive. Being aware of the different types of productive behaviors can be a good guide. If one doesn’t work, try a different one. The solution starts with you.

This is the final post in an 18-part series discussing positive conflict behaviors. Effective leaders encourage productive conflict and discourage unproductive conflict. Follow along as we explore the positive impact of these behaviors.

Part 1: Finding the Root of the Problem
Part 2: Apologize
Part 3: Listen to Differing Perspectives
Part 4: Bring in a Neutral Perspective
Part 5: Separate Emotion from Fact
Part 6: Own Your Contributions
Part 7: Offer Reassurance
Part 8: Find a Compromise
Part 9: Give Others Time and Space
Part 10: Acknowledge the Feelings of Others
Part 11: Revisit Unresolved Issues
Part 12: Pause & Reflect
Part 13: Be Flexible
Part 14: Communicate Respectfully
Part 15: Be Open and Honest
Part 16: Be Aware of your Own Feelings
Part 17: Seeking an Active Resolution

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *