The Blame-gamer

We'd like to think corporate success -- and success in life in general -- is more dependent on the wins in our win columns than anything else.  There is, however, an ugly element to human nature, one where we tend to zero in on the losses, no matter how few and far between they are.  And most of us seem to get a charge watching the foibles and pitfalls of others (otherwise, why do television shows like American Idol, or Survivor last?).

The Blame-gamer knows this element of human nature extremely well, and is prepared to push it to its logical limits.  The primary Blame-gamer behavior is what is sometimes called "the search for the guilty, and the punishment of the innocent."  To the Blame-gamer, every problem or shortcoming has a name associated with it -- someone who's "guilty".  One of the things Blame-gamers rarely seem to do however, is look at the circumstances surrounding a failure -- was the original strategy sound?  Were there environmental factors that made success impossible to achieve?  Were the expectations of what would be called success unreasonable?  To the Blame-gamer, these questions are irrelevant, and examining them would only interfere with the search for the person or persons guilty of screwing things up.

Unlike some of the other extreme leadership styles, where the leader can be fully or partially blind to their own behaviors, Blame-gamers tend to be much more deliberate in their actions.  Since the leader is usually ultimately responsible for defining strategy, evaluating environmental factors, and setting the thresholds for success, it is much safer and emotionally more satisfying to define every failure as a "failure to execute".  Failure to execute automatically implies the strategy was sound and the expectations were reasonable.

Beyond just searching for the guilty (and punishing the innocent), sometimes the blame-gamer, sensing an impending failure, will push others into a key execution role simply as a buffer between a potential future problem and themselves.  The Blame-gamer uses the unwitting or unwilling person as a kind of human shield -- a scapegoat who can take ownership of the failure, should it occur.

The impact on the organization is fairly predictable -- conservatism.  In the Blame-gamer environment, where "failure" is punished much more than "success" is ever rewarded, it pays to avoid taking risks of any kind.  Employees in the Blame-gamer leadership environment will be reluctant to bring forward projects unless they're almost a sure thing.  The clever employees will strive to gain recognition for presenting ideas, but will shy away from involving themselves in their implementation.  Goals and targets, which wise employees already try to set as low as possible, will be pushed even lower in the Blame-gamer environment, where there is little upside in agreeing to hard targets.

Over time, the company will become exposed to smaller, less risk-averse competitors trying new systems, products or processes.  The Blame-gamer firm will be slow to move on new ideas, wanting to see they are nearly fool-proof before moving on them, lest the employees, as individuals, take the blame for anything less than stellar success.