My last post describes how several of us are blogging at BusinessWeek.com on toxic bosses. As regular readers of this blog will know, I have devoted quite a bit of space here to the issues of credit and blame, and in particular, how leaders deal with failures and setbacks -- this story about Andy Grove has always been one of my favorites, as it shows the complex skill required. The challenges of dealing with credit and blame go to the heart of being an effective leader: skilled leaders do what is best for their organizations, not best for themselves, when things go wrong (or go right). Credit and blame also go to the heart of good group dynamics: effective groups share blame and credit fairly, don't become trapped in battles over who is to blame and who is a hero. And when things go wrong -- rather than going into blamestorming mode -- they join together to solve the problem (a good example is how Southwest Airlines deals with flight delays; teams focus on fixing the problem, not finding a goat). See the cartoon below from The Talent Zoo by Gary Kopervas for a great illustration of blamestorming.
I am thinking about credit and blame this morning because I just read Ben Dattner's BusinessWeek post on The Teflon Boss, and how such "unfair blamers" do so much damage. The post is fantastic, but even better is his powerpoint deck on Credit and Blame in the Workplace. It provides one of the most complete and integrated treatments of this managment challenge I have ever seen, and is chock-full of specific actions that leaders can take to strike a delicate and effective balance. And although Ben touches on research lightly in the deck, these ideas are consistent in the best research I know of on leadership, attribution of responsibility, group dynamics, and personality -- which is no surprise as Ben is well-versed in such studies, as he is a research psycholoigst by training.
Also, don't miss Ben's other posts, especially his earlier one on narcissism.
And more generally, if you have thoughts on managing credit and blame, you might want to add a comment to Ben's inspired post.