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Feedback: Stop Making Excuses or Blaming Others when Receiving Criticism
We all know them; the blamers. We know them, we work with them, and sometimes we even love them. Blamers are the people who never seem to do anything wrong. When things do go wrong, at least, it’s never, ever their fault. It can always be traced back to someone else’s mistake or a circumstance beyond their control.
Blamers are very difficult to work with and even more difficult to correct. How can you correct someone if they never can admit to doing anything wrong? What’s even worse is when the blamer begins to blame the corrector. No one wins.
Blaming others or circumstances has become so commonplace in our homes and in our workplaces that we often don’t even notice it anymore. We’ve even come to expect it.
Think about the last time you questioned someone in regards to a mistake. What did they say? Was it their fault? Did they readily admit to dropping the ball? Or did they quickly begin to weave a web of excuses? Most likely the person you question was one of them. The chance of this person being a blamer is very, very high.
Blamers are everywhere. Usually they are very smart, high capacity workers who do what they can to get the job done. These blamers can’t find fault in their own work because they believe others aren’t quite as capable as they are. When things go wrong is must be because of someone or something else. Other blamers, however, make a habit of doing as little as possible. As long as they can place the blame on someone else, they can get by and still look pretty sharp. In between the high capacity blamers and the lazy blamers are even more blamers of every size, shape, and personality. Blamers are everywhere.
What exactly do we know about blamers?
- They do not appreciate feedback.
- They make excuses.
- They blame others for their mistakes
- They cannot be trusted.
- No one will want to work with them.
- Everyone who does work with them must constantly watch their back.
- No one wants to correct them.
- They make everyone miserable.
What do we know about owners?
- They take responsibility
- They understand how to process feedback and adjust or correct accordingly.
- They work hard to improve their work
- They own up to their faults and mistakes
- They can be trusted
- Others want to work with them
- Supervisors can trust them
- No one feels like they have to watch their backs around them.
- Everyone knows the owner has their back.
- People like them.
Think back to a blamer that you know. This blamer is competent and can usually muster up success in one form or another. Yet when things go wrong he can never own up to it and never uses the incident to improve his performance. Instead, he blames others or circumstances beyond his control. How does this make you feel? Do you trust him? Would you want to work with him? Would you give him greater responsibility?
What if he stopped the blame game? What if something went wrong and instead of making excuses he owned up to the problems. “You’re right,” he says, “I made a mistake. It was my responsibility. I’ll do better next time. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.” And then, not only does he say he’ll do better, he actually does better. He takes the mistake and learns from it. He accepts the criticism and corrects himself. This guy isn’t a blamer anymore. He’s an owner. He owns up to his responsibility.
How does the owner make you feel? Do you trust him? Would you want to work with him? Would you give him greater responsibility? Absolutely.
I would imagine that you can quickly identify the blamers and the owners at your workplace. If you’ve been there for any great length of time, these workers have made themselves known. It doesn’t matter if you are the leader, supervisor, manager, worker, or intern. You know who is a blamer and who is an owner. The question remains, however. Which one are you?
Are You a Blamer?
Before we get too worked up and start blaming all of the blamers that we know in our lives, let’s take a step back and look at our own level of blaming. How well do we take correction, criticism, or feedback?
Think about the last time you were questioned in regards to a mistake. What did you say? Was it your fault? Did you readily admit to dropping the ball? Or did you quickly weave a web of excuses? Could it be? Could you possibly be one of them? Could you be a blamer?
The truth is blaming someone or something comes naturally to all of us. No one wants to look like the bad guy or the incompetent guy or the loser who couldn’t get the job done. And in reality, it very well could be that someone else’s mistake or a circumstance led to the failure in the first place. Those people may in all actuality deserve to be thrown under the bus and be under the fire of correction.
Yet, when the responsibility is on our shoulders, when it’s our deal, our task, then we are the ones who must be held accountable for our actions as well as our mistakes, even when others fail us along the way. This is when it’s our turn to step up and be an owner.
But How? How do we swallow that natural instinct to cry out, “It’s not my fault”?
How do we move from being a Blamer to an Owner?
- Spend some time in personal reflection. Knowing your strengths is a valuable tool for leadership; so is knowing your weaknesses. Come to an understanding with yourself in regards to your weaknesses. Everyone has them. This may help you to uncover the reasons why you became a blamer in the first place. Perhaps you are a people pleaser who can’t fathom the idea of someone being disappointed in you. Maybe you simply don’t care about others very much and gladly sacrifice them to get ahead. Getting to the root of your blaming will be very helpful in moving toward becoming an owner.
- Understand why you want to be an owner in the first place. It’s helpful to remember that actually accepting blame or negative feedback is actually a positive. Often we play the blame game because we don’t want others to think poorly of us. But when we look back at the lists of what we know about the blamers and the owners, we must remember that it is the owner who is liked and the blamer who is not trusted.
- Take a step toward improvement. Look back at your last employee evaluation or feedback form. Was there any negative feedback that you can use as a starting point? For example, if poor time management was listed, start making an effort toward managing your time better. Read some time management articles or books. Take a time management course. Work toward improvement in that area on your own.
- Begin to take ownership. Identify the problem before someone else does. If you see that a project you are working on is having problems own up to them and begin to work on solution. For example, if your team is having trouble communicating, don’t blame one of the team members. Instead, call them together and make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Practice saying that you’re sorry. Start small if you have to. “I’m sorry I didn’t include you on the e-mail.” Or “I’m sorry I was late this morning.” “Contrition is much more attractive than, “It’s not my fault you didn’t get the e-mail I sent.” “It’s not my fault there was an accident on the freeway.”
- Listen to feedback from others. Think about what they say. Could they be right? Not all feedback is good feedback. You will have to process the criticism to see if there is any truth or value. If there is, then work toward improvement. If there isn’t, try to set it aside. (You don’t want to go from being a blamer to being a pushover.)
- Take responsibility. Take responsibility for your own actions and how you respond to circumstances beyond your control. If you messed up, admit it and then do what you can to fix it. If someone on your team drops the ball, work with them toward a solution. Learning to take responsibility will help you become a better team player and will increase your leadership effectiveness.
- Be grateful for feedback. Being grateful for feedback is extremely difficult. When you’ve done all that you can to improve on your own and someone still comes to you with a criticism, our natural instinct is to argue or make excuses. Thanking someone for criticism, however, will go a long way in establishing trust. People are used to excuses. Gratitude may catch them off guard and cause them to look at you in a newer, better, light.
- Work toward improvement. Don’t just stop at thanking someone for feedback. In order to take full responsibility you will need to take the next step and work toward improving the situation. Develop your skills in the area of critique. Work toward solving the problems that were presented. When you can do this, then you have become an owner.
What if the critcism isn't true?
Not all feedback is good feedback. If you are on the receiving end of criticism that is false, take some time to read Feedback: How to Handle False Criticism at Work for some suggestions on how you can face the negativity and end up with a positive outcome.
What about you? How have you moved from being a blamer to an owner? How do you handle blamers in the workplace? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comment section below.
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