Are You Seduced by Blame?

When you blame others, you give up your power to change. ~Dr. Robert Anthony

This week I had several instances where the contrast of blame vs. responsibility was brought to my attention.  I was especially intrigued by the idea that blame can be seductive, even extremelyseductive. Some of the synonyms for seduce paint a vivid picture of what this seduction might look like: bait, beguile, betray, bewitch, bribe (and that's only through the b's!). Not exactly a positive image.

Like many things that aren't good for us, blame can become addictive. If we persevere in making the case that someone (or something) is to blame for our problems, this perception can dramatically twist and blur our view of reality.    

I recall an instance when this concept became very clear to me. A number of years ago I was considering becoming business partners with someone who owned a consulting firm. During my due diligence process I discovered a number of serious financial management concerns. When I asked the current owner about some of these challenges he blamed someone or something (like the economy) for each and every one of them. Then, without really thinking, I asked, "so, what are you actually responsible for?" Silence. 

With that vivid example in mind, I began to quickly review my own actions, responses, etc. for a lack of responsibility that was substituted with a knee-jerk reaction to pass the blame. How often had I slipped into the very same pattern of pointing my finger toward someone else? I also realized that Dr. Robert Anthony is right.  When you blame others, you give up the power to change. And I'd add to that, you give up the power to change both yourself and the situation. So, it's a lose/lose scenario.

The International Coach Academy says, "People who play the blame game may then unknowingly mentor others in the blame game. Families, workplaces and even whole societies can become infected and then trapped in a culture of blame."

Hubert Humphrey said, "We believe that to err is human. To blame it on someone else is politics." I’m not intending to make a political statement or take any kind of political position, but it does feel like our governmental officials have become trapped in a culture of blame. Could this be part of the reason we seem to be stuck in a lose/lose scenario; because we've given up the power to change?

I'm currently reading a book entitled The Happiness Project. The author engaged in an exhaustive study of happiness and then spent a full year testing many of the various theories. I find it quite interesting that nearly every "practice" she undertakes to achieve greater happiness involves increasing her "responsibility."

While blame is both seductive and addictive, I'm struggling to find a positive outcome. Like many things that are seductive and addictive there is a very short-term "high" followed by continuous disappointment and frustration.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wise man that he is, said that "Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility."  

Leaders who are ready for responsibility have the power to change, both themselves and the situation.
Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.

How Not to Say You're Sorry through Customer Service

Poor customer service can make you feel like you're being taken for a ride. 
Last week I took my family on a winter getaway to Florida, where we spent a good deal of time at one of the state's many amusement parks. It was non-stop fun once we got inside the park's gates. But outside the park's gates was a bit of a mess.

It began a month earlier, when I'd called the park's customer service line to purchase our tickets. I quickly received a confirmation email, and for about 10 minutes, all was well. Then I got someone else's confirmation email. Then a second email, containing that guest's personal contact information and the last four digits of his credit card. The situation went downhill from there.

If you're a leader with an organization that provides customer service - and don't we all? - then my experience is a good primer in how not to say you're sorry when you make a service mistake. If you want your customers to believe your attempts to resolve the situation are insincere, here's what you should do:

Mistake 1. Take a reasonable mistake, and make it worse. Repeatedly.

In the weeks after I purchased the tickets, I spent hours on the phone with the park's customer service team, attempting to correct the error that had associated the two accounts. Each agent assured me that he had taken care of the situation, but inevitably I'd hang up the phone only to find another inaccurate email in my inbox. It culminated the night before we were to depart on the trip, when I discovered the last manager I'd spoken with had assigned his own email address to our account, rendering me unable to access our tickets online.

Mistakes are inevitable in business (though compromising a customer's personal information is inexcusable, if you ask me). When you realize you've made one, resolve it. Immediately.

Mistake 2. Keep Your Service Impersonal. 

On my third call to the customer service team, I asked to speak with a manager. He, as had his colleagues before him, assured me he had resolved the situation. I asked him for his last name and direct line so I could contact him if I had any further problems. "We aren't allowed to give that out, ma'am," he told me. I persisted, but he insisted he simply couldn't give me a way to reach him again.

I remembered this when the problem reoccurred: he's lucky I didn't have his direct line. Or his supervisor's.

Do your customers have a way to speak with the same person every time? This builds trust and empowers employees to get the job done right.

Mistake 3. Don't give up a thing. 

Two hours into the debacle, I asked the agent on the line if the park could compensate me for the time I had wasted due to their error. "We're not able to do that, ma'am," she said; and something about her tone made me feel like I'd asked an unreasonable, greedy question.

Eventually, a few more phone calls in, an agent offered me two lunch tickets: it seemed a little paltry, given that I'd purchased park tickets for four.

When you've made an error, go out of your way to be generous to your customers. Penny pinching looks cheap and unprofessional. Find a genuine and tangible way to express your apologies.

Mistake 4. Be a grump.

The situation was finally resolved with a personal letter from an agent, which I had to print (from my hotel room) and take to the customer service desk at the park's entrance. Though the letter clearly outlined the situation, the agent at the window never offered an apology, or even a warm smile.

It's hard to stay angry at someone you like. A welcoming and polite demeanor can go a long way toward earning forgiveness. Even a small gesture of contrition would have helped, in this situation.

In the end, we loved our time at the amusement park. Getting there, though, was another story. Customer service bookends your customers' enjoyment of your product. Poor service damages your reputation and reflects poorly on your whole product. When a service error does occur, find a genuine way to apologize and make the situation right.
Want more? Read "Saying Sorry: How These Two Magic Words Reveal Your Character and Redeem Situations."
Amber Johnson is the CVDL's corporate relations advisor and a non-profit and small business communications specialist. She writes about forgiveness, and other non-business topics, on her blog,

Does Spirituality Belong in Business (Podcast)

Dr. Louis W. (Jody) Fry is the founder of the International Institute for Spiritual Leadership and a professor at Texas A&M Central Texas.  Fry’s most recent book is titled Maximizing the Triple Bottom Line through Spiritual Leadership (Stanford University Press, 2013) and examines business models that integrate ethics, leadership, employee well-being, sustainability, social responsibility, profitability, and organizational growth.  The case studies in the book are informed by more than a decade of research investigating spiritual leadership in organizations. 

According to Fry (2013a), spiritual leadership “is an emerging paradigm within the broader context of workplace spirituality designed to create an intrinsically motivated, learning organization that maximizes the triple bottom line.”[1] The triple bottom line is what an organization is thought to be targeting when it addresses not just the financial consequences of its actions, but also the social and environmental consequences. The triple bottom line refers to people, planet, and profit.

In the following interview, produced by Quiddity at NPR-member WUIS, Illinois Public Radio’s hub-station, Fry discusses how he arrived in the inspired scholarly space that brought forth the creation of a book that tackles a topic not often readily embraced by conventional corporate culture.  He shares a multi-layered journey into the places and spaces where together, head and heart map the mystery of the human experience, and over a decade of academic research charts a path toward the “co-creation of a conscience, sustainable world that works for everyone” (Fry, 2013b).[2]

This podcast, and the above introduction, is by Joanna Beth Tweedy, an associate dean of academic affairs at Benedictine University's Springfield campus. She is the founding editor and host of Quiddity International Literary Journal and the author of the novel, The Yonder Side of Sass and Texas, recently published by Southeast Missouri University Press. Tweedy is a current doctoral student with the Center for Values-Driven Leadership

[1] Fry, L. W. (2013a). What is spiritual leadership? International Institute for Spiritual Leadership. Retrieved from
[2] Fry, L. W. (2013b). A conversation with Louis W. (Jody) Fry [Interview by J. B. Tweedy]. Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public-Radio Program, 6(2) print edition. Original broadcast January 2013.