It seems as though blame has been a touchy subject in Western culture ever since both Adam and Eve failed fess up to the stolen fruit during their stay in the Garden of Eden. King Lear has to look long and hard at himself before he finds the wherewithal to admit his shortsightedness, and the list only continues from there, establishing the dance around guilt as somewhat endemic to Western society. Along with the avoidance of blame, the zeal for acclaim and honor have been driving forces of the warriors such as Achilles and Hector of the Illiad to Don Quixote who set out to achieve unrivaled glory in the name of Dulcinea del Toboso whose beauty required it. Just yesterday the recent book by Ben Dattner titled “The Blame Game,” and subtitled “How the Hidden Rules of Credit and Blame Determine Our Success or Failure,” explores several these themes—albeit in a more utilitarian and practical manner than my introduction might lead you to think.
Dattner postulates that the balance of credit and blame are the functioning motivational operators in both organizational psychology and corporate culture—more so than money being that blame means less money and credit means more money. The recession and other timely events such as the BP oil spill makes this topic timely as we think about how the corporate, the private, and the political, should appear on the matrix of responsibility. Drawing on his many years of research as an organizational psychologist, Dattner maintains that most corporate endeavors function on imbalanced motivational principles do not reward successes or failures with the corresponding credit or blame; a critique roughly akin to Marx’s commodity fetishism in which he asserts that the work rendered and monetary value attributed to that work are never equivalent values. As one would expect, both gender and race play a large part in determining both who gets the blame and who takes the credit.
What I find most disappointing about Dattner’s ideas is that his suggestions are not novel in any radical sense: establish goals early and be clear about them, regularly convene to assess one’s productivity in light of the set goals and determine what steps can be taken to achieve those using constructive and practical terms. Also; do not let yourself in on the blame game—always maintain an objective approach, referring to actions and effects, not scapegoats. While these attitudes are helpful to keep in mind, I believe one’s own common sense would generally lead one to the same conclusions—but maybe it takes Dattner’s book to find some common sense.