What is Blame Culture & How Does it Affect Us?
By Stephanie Evans ’24 Principal
When we receive constructive criticism, we never want to say we made a mistake; it’s always easier to point the finger. Every one of us has dealt with blame in various capacities.
Generally, individuals see blame as solely negative, but can we learn from those experiences more than from positive ones? The Review of General Psychology: Bad is Stronger than Good found that “the greater power of bad events over good ones is found in everyday events.” Although negative information may be more strenuous, it receives more processing and contributes more strongly to the final impression than positive information can. Negative information stays with us and can create a positive change within our work or teams. This assumption is derived from the five-to-one ratio developed by John Gottman.
Humans will inherently point the finger, which means blame is hard to overcome, especially within close working teams.
Failure is not always harmful and is shown to teach and improve the workplace more than pure success and luck can. Returning to memoirs written by acclaimed business professionals, they often feature a mistake that led them how to move forward critically and learn for the next time.
How does the Fundamental Attribution Bias figure into this? More specifically, this finds that “an individual’s tendency to attribute another’s action to their character or personality, while attributing their behavior to external situational factors outside their control.” Being unaware of this bias can create more turmoil in teams. A more positive way to combat this can be a more positive approach derived from the learned takeaways of the negative information. From the team perspective, mistakes should be shared and viewed as a way to learn and improve processes.
Due to human nature, individuals interpret blame identically to how they interpret a physical attack. This can discourage and remove existing confidence, creating a more hostile workflow. If individuals can see negative information and experiences (attributed to blame) as a learning and growth opportunity rather than a time of punishment, more positive and accurate work will result.
So next time you think you failed at something, remember that it doesn’t take away from your abilities; instead, it gives you a leg up to move forward and learn something you may have never had to face.
Stephanie is a junior from Durham, NH who is pursing a degree in Business Administration with an option in Finance and a minor in Economics while also completing another major in Political Science. Stephanie has spent the past semester learning about the Private Equity space and recently got started working as a research assistant within the UNH Center for Venture Research. She joined Alpha Kappa Psi, which is the professional business fraternity on campus. Stephanie is enthusiastic about learning more about the different avenues and niche research areas within the field through the Rines Fund with real world experience.