Women of Power: Don’t Play the Blame Game

Women of Power: Don’t Play the Blame Game


We’ve all done it many times. Someone drops the ball, makes a bad decision and h/she is able to place the responsibility squarely at your feet.

Don’t throw someone under the bus in an attempt to make yourself look better, is one of the many lessons gleaned from the Accountability: How to Avoid the Blame Game session at the Women of Power summit. Own up to it and learn how to grow from the mistake.

Consider one of the best recent examples: President Barack Obama said he screwed up in his choice for health and human services secretary. He didn’t tap dance or try to redefine a verb (here that, Bill Clinton). He took the blame and moved forward, and hopefully learned from his mistake.

Contrast Obama’s statement with Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corp. of America, the company linked to the tainted salmonella that has sickened scores of people. Parnell refused to answer questions during a House hearing on the matter. Way to put your head in the sand.

Speak to the fact that it did happen, what you’re going to do to make it right, apologize and then take the lumps that are associated with what happened, said one of the panelists.

That’s what accountability is all about. But that’s just one aspect of it.

When owning up to a mistake, and sharing it, you are taking the steps to make sure no one else will make those same mistakes.

Instead of finger pointing, managers should hold a debriefing on lessons learned. View the situation as an opportunity to make things better. As a manager it shows that you are open to feedback and long-term growth. It also makes people’s journey a lot more meaningful.

But what if you’ve been deliberately “thrown under the bus” someone asked?

The responses ranged from payback — and who hasn’t had amazing fantasies of making that person PAY — to taking time to decipher the situation in order to make a thoughtful response. Have a conversation with the bus driver to let him know that his actions are known — not to threaten, but to keep him in check.

I really liked this suggestion: Don’t email that person for at least 12 hours. Gah! How many of us have dashed off a snippy email and regretted it as soon as the she hit send?

And don’t forget about the intent of the person who threw you under the bus, and be careful because that bus just might be backing up.

The Women of Power Summit runs Feb. 11-14 at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida.

Have you been “thrown under the bus?” How did you handle it?

Deborah Creighton Skinner is the editorial director at BlackEnterprise.com.