What is the Blame Game?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 April 2020
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The term “blame game” is often used to describe a phenomenon which happens in groups of people when something goes wrong. Essentially, all members of the group attempt to pass the blame on, absolving themselves of responsibility for the issue. The blame game can get quite complex and convoluted, and people who are not good at playing along may find themselves bearing the brunt of ill-will as a result of whatever went wrong.

In addition to being frustrating and a waste of time, the blame game can also be very counterproductive. By shifting the focus to who made the mistake which led to the problem, the blame game distracts people from why the problem occurred in the first place. As a result, the members of the group may miss out on a valuable learning experience which would have allowed them to prevent such errors in the future.

In order for the game blame to be effective, a mid-sized to large group is needed, and a hierarchy is ideal. For example, the owner of a business may identify a problem and discuss it with a manager, who points the finger at another manager or staffer. When confronted, the fingered person will pass the blame on to someone of lower rank, or another coworker, and so forth, until everyone in the business claims to know nothing about the problem and its cause.

The motivations behind the blame game are natural. Many people want to be liked and accepted, and they fear that taking responsibility for an issue will make them disliked, and this could potentially lead to being fired or otherwise penalized. Most people also want to look good in the eyes of their coworkers, so they do not want to bear the shame of being responsible for a problem. As a result, people will pass the blame on rather than dealing with it, which can be especially frustrating for people who are genuinely not involved with the issue.

One way to avoid the blame game is to use very open, transparent procedures which can easily be followed up, and to make people accountable for particular hot spots. For example, at the end of the day, one person could be expected to lock up a business, signing off on a checklist indicating that he or she has done so. It can also help to create an environment where people are rewarded for taking responsibility, even for mistakes, as these mistakes are used to learn, benefiting the group as a whole.

Some psychiatric conditions are closely linked with the blame game. People with social disorders, for example, may be tempted to blame other people for their failures or struggles with society, and the blame game is especially closely linked with bipolar disorder. People who deal with individuals who have such conditions on a daily basis may be offered training or support to help them deal with the blame game and other issues which may arise when interacting with the mentally ill.

The blame game is also common in politics, a field in which people tend to take credit for success while minimizing failure. Politicians tend to relish an opportunity to pass on blame for a catastrophic failure to a rival.

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Post 4

@empanadas - I definitely see where you're coming from on that last statement. I don't vote, so I won't say anything, but a lot of Obama's blame game is base off the blame to Bush. Everyone seems to have a problem with everyone that comes before them. Oh well, I guess not very many people were taught to take the blame on themselves or stand up and admit their mistakes, eh?

Post 3

@WalrusTusk - I can definitely see your point. I really hate that people do this and wish they would just have a blame "game over" if you know what I mean. I mean, there is even a saying of the "Obama blame game" which I think is just not right - even though that might be a controversial statement. I mean - you try to run a country and see if everyone likes YOU... you know?

Post 2

@plaid - That is so funny. I see the atmosphere of the blame game a lot more often in corporate settings. It happens a lot whenever there is a strict deadline and some one has a mishap with not being able to complete their step or project on time. It really has a tendency to trickle on down the line as well. Should person A forget something or not meet their personal goals on time, then person B suffers and so on and so forth.

Post 1

I think playing the blame game happens a lot in families as well. Since it's like you ask one kid to do something and they pass it on, then the blame game ensues. It's only funny when it's not my family or my kids, though.

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