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Don’t fall victim to the blame game

by on
in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Too much emphasis on blaming individuals can lead to a failure to identify the true root of the problem.

Take the story of the Israeli Air Force fighter pilots and their trainers.

The trainers noticed that pilots executed better flights after they’d been criticized, and flew worse after they received positive feedback. Their conclusion: Blame must get the pilots to focus better.

So trainers adopted the practice of withholding positive feedback and liberally applying blame, so pilots wouldn’t grow too cocky.

But two psychologists, Daniel Kahne­mann and Amos Tversky, came to a dif­fer­ent conclusion: If a pilot logged a poor flight, the “anomaly” was unlikely to repeat itself, regardless of feedback.

Similarly, if a pilot had a stellar flight, the odds were that he would drift back toward the mean.

In other words, the blame or credit didn’t have the impact the trainers had believed. Once they knew the true causes of the flight variation, they could begin exploring new ways of teaching.

Leadership lesson: Blaming the wrong factors and variables can be distracting at best; harmful at worst.

— Adapted from The Blame Game, Ben Dattner.

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