Why Blaming Is a Toxic Leadership Habit

Pretty much every toxic leader I have had the displeasure of working for, or whom I have experienced, was a master in the art of blaming.

And over the years the more I have studied toxic leadership, the clearer it has become that blaming is one of the key ingredients in creating a Toxic Environment, rather than a symptom of it.

One of the fundamentals of good Leadership is creating an environment in which your teams feel safe, comfortable, and one in which they trust their leaders, and they feel that their leader trusts them.

The challenge is that blaming is like kryptonite for trust.

Nothing kills trust faster or causes it more harm, and when the trust has gone, so too has any chance of good leadership.

Blaming just disengages people, I mean why would you want to be involved in anything if you know that you will be blamed if it goes wrong or the results are not what was expected.

In that type of environment, you can pretty much forget people volunteering for work, especially if there is some element of risk too it. You can also forget high levels of collaboration and support because blaming can become infectious and become the norm even between some teams and employees. And if you think your contribution might be blamed, then why would you still give it if it was optional.

I had one boss who was a legend, I’m sure he is in the blaming hall of fame somewhere, but things got so bad, that in meetings people rarely said a word unless directly asked to contribute.

Opinions and suggestions were rarely shared because of the negativity they could attract if there was even the slightest hint that that could lead to failure.

Our department was pretty big with a budget well into the 100s of millions, so pretty critical but also with quite high levels of risk.

People fell into one of two camps they either joined in the blaming, which was now a strong element of the culture, or they disengaged. Which just created a downward spiral of blaming and disengagement which had disastrous effects on productivity, morale and employee retention.

Great leaders avoid blame, they understand its inherent toxicity.

They focus on solutions, that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to know what are the root causes of problems, they do, but they don’t make it personal.

They own up to their own mistakes and accept responsibility for them, they don’t look to shift the blame to someone else.

They don’t let others blame either, because what you allow, you condone, and even if you are not a blamer yourself, it can still become part of your team or departmental culture.

Trust is the cornerstone of great leadership, great teamwork, and great performance.

And where there is blame there is little to no trust.