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Whose Fault Is It? [Oct. 12th, 2011|08:49 am]
Whose fault is it?

I have an aversion to Blame. When I was a child, one day my mother demanded to know who ate the last Oreo and put the empty box back in the cabinet. And my brother denied it, even though we all knew that he was the one. But for some reason, my mother kept at it and at it, threatening some vague consequence because she would NOT be lied to. And now I know, as an adult, that there was probably a lot going on in her day/life at the time that had nothing to do with the Oreo cookie box, but sometimes whatever crap rained down on you at work or while shopping, or came in the mail, or whatever…just winds up boiling down to an empty Oreo cookie box.

And that day, in a flash of child empowerment – probably my nascent obsession with goal-focus pushing its little cotyledon past the seed coat -- I said “I did it. I ate them all and put the box back. I don’t know why, it was dumb. I won’t do it again.”

And it stopped. I made the complaining stop. Mostly of course, because my mother knew that the odds that my brother had done it were far higher, since I was more of a Fig Newton girl. And the vague promised consequences vanished, as they often did. Mostly because my whole family’s bark is way more fearsome than our bite. But also because it wasn’t the box, it was the refusal to own up, to take responsibility that was ticking her off.

I did it. I’m sorry. Assuming the words are genuine, they are guaranteed to take the wind right out of your sails of righteous indignation. Yet, they seem to be so hard to say.

Now, obviously, to take blame for something serious, with serious consequences, is dumb. If you ARE responsible, you should take blame because it’s the right thing to do – but also, the only way you (and the blamer) can move on is if you ‘fess up. And if it’s just something dumb, with few to no consequences, taking on the blame allows the conversation to move on.

Because what’s the point, really? For IT, whatever IT is, to not happen again. Deep down in your little wrinkled walnut of a soul, you don’t REALLY care whose fault it is. (If you do, then you are due for some self-examination. Get out your mental speculum and ask yourself why you are so damn mad and why you can’t let go. You are in a bear trap of bitter, my friend, and only you can push down the lever to get yourself out.)

You want IT to not happen again. Or happen in a different, better way. You don’t care WHO failed to replace the toilet paper roll, not REALLY. You just want there always to be toilet paper. You can try an impassioned plea to your roommates, tell them how devalued you feel when they can’t even bother to change the empty spool. You can watch the roll level and who goes in and out of the toilet to see who’s leaving it empty and go with direct confrontation. You can leave passive aggressive notes taped to the wall above the empty toilet paper holder. Or, get new roommates and make that part of the contract next time. Or, you can ask yourself if, in the grand scheme of things, this is really worth getting your panties in a wad over.

I’m not telling you which is the right way to go, that’s for you to decide. But seriously, standing there in the living room, waving the empty cardboard tube, frothing at the mouth and screaming? Your goal there, would be? I mean, other than revealing yourself as an overwrought, shrill harridan?

Calling an all-hands meeting and yelling at EVERYONE, making even the people who’ve done nothing wrong feel guilty? What are you going to do, take one person out to the balcony and push him/her off, until finally someone confesses? After all, the person who did IT is now either too frightened to confess or a complete sociopath and doesn’t care and may even be garnering enjoyment from the whole production.

Blaming people, after all, tends to just encourage them to HIDE their mistakes. I had a colleague who was bragging to me about how he “ripped one of his subordinates a new one” after that subordinate confessed that they’d made a mistake. She’ll be more careful from now on, he gloated.

Awesome, dude, I said. Because the odds that, in her whole career with you, that she’ll never make another mistake are slim. We ALL make mistakes. But you’ve just taught her to HIDE her mistakes. And while some mistakes just get carried away with the current, or dry up and blow away on the wind, a lot of them fester and mould and just get worse. No matter how badly she messes up, you will never know. Until it’s too late to fix it.

Blame. It’s a waste of time and energy.

[User Picture]From: kiltboy
2011-10-12 02:15 pm (UTC)
I have found, especially in the work place, "Yeah, that's my bad. I screwed it up. What can I do to fix it?" will suck the wind right out of someone's sails who just wants to bitch about it. Works even better in a room full of other people. Now that you've owned the mistake, the other person really can't lay into you in front of the others without looking like an asshole. That stops most folks, but not those that are already an asshole.
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[User Picture]From: quislet
2011-10-12 02:31 pm (UTC)
I have often thought about patenting this move. I call it "strategic vulnerability," baring your throat to the wolf and daring it to bite. Of course, it only works when you're not really dealing with wolves...
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2011-10-14 11:57 am (UTC)
Just because you're in submissive posture, doesn't mean you don't have your legs underneath you ready to launch. My horse was a complete expletive. For a while he was pastured with a more dominant gelding, who'd been cut late and was pretty aggressive. Damien would go completely submissive and as soon as the other horse would back off and take his eyes off Damien, Damien would lunge out and sucker punch him. And then run away.

It would have been funnier if he didn't treat ME that way as well....
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[User Picture]From: russell_moore
2011-10-12 03:33 pm (UTC)

re: That stops most folks, but not those that are already an asshole.


and the assholes are in the majority, and growing it seems

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[User Picture]From: queenmaggie
2011-10-12 02:35 pm (UTC)
A variation on the move: when some entitled idiot is bloviating on about something that s/he doesn't really seem to understand, but is counting on no one else having an in depth knowledge of either: Confess to your ignorance and ask for a better explanation. Shuts them right up.
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From: kudrasslipper
2011-10-12 03:09 pm (UTC)
hmmmmm.... pushing people off a balcony? Would "out a window" be just as good? ::strokes chin and daydreams...::
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[User Picture]From: russell_moore
2011-10-12 04:06 pm (UTC)
my building is 18 floors ... I have suggested mounting a plank on the rooftop ... people laugh and think I'm joking
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[User Picture]From: kiltboy
2011-10-12 06:09 pm (UTC)
And if it's done in Prague, they made a painting of it!
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2011-10-14 11:59 am (UTC)
Is no one going to say it? (I know YOU know it) Was waiting for another comment...but I worry that words that don't get used enough fade away. So, I will take your bait: DEFENESTRATION.

It deserves to be used more often. In both senses of that sentence.
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[User Picture]From: russell_moore
2011-10-12 03:31 pm (UTC)
my entire dysfunctional organization succeeds in spite of itself

the fact anyone gets correct valid data in a timely manner is truly an accomplishment

because the majority of time is spent in endless meetings that mean nothing, to be yelled at for things we had nothing to do with, or so some empty suit can read us back the e-mails we sent just to "be sure"

and the constant finger pointing and bickering when something does go wrong does nothing but add time to the fix and recovery process

so yeah ... I feel for you ... because I'm living it too
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2011-10-14 12:02 pm (UTC)
Actually, it's not a problem where I work. Much. But I HAVE worked in organizations in the past, where this is RIFE. Our problem right now is the time wasted in reporting on your progress, the status...so often that I sometimes feel I'm spending more time explaining my work, than actually DOING it.

It's more benign, certainly, than what you're putting up with.
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