Inspire Staff By Accepting Blame And Sharing The Credit

By Mark Swartz
Canadian Workplace Specialist

Taking credit, doling out blame. It’s a bit of a juggling act. As a Manager, do you tend to hog the limelight when things run smoothly but point fingers as soon as the ball drops?
To inspire your employees, try shouldering more blame and sharing more credit. This may seem a little counterintuitive at first. Doesn’t it reveal to others that you’re less than perfect?
In some ways it does. However it also gains you the respect of your team. And shows the higher ups that you have leadership qualities above and beyond the norm.
The Bragger vs. Leader Questionnaire
Rate yourself as a Manager when it comes to the following at work:
Accepting Blame When Your Team Messes Up
a) I always take full responsibility for foul-ups because ultimately that’s what Managers do
b) Usually I fess up to being in the wrong, but it’s o.k. to point out others who are to blame too
c) I generally accept some of the blame, though other times I’ll merely point fingers  
d) It’s pretty rare for me to publicly admit that I’m responsible for my team’s mistakes
e) Confess to the mess? I might as well admit I’m incompetent!
Sharing The Credit For A Job Well Done
a) It’s my pleasure to give credit where credit is due. My employees deserve it
b) Typically I’m pretty generous with doling out acknowledgments, though not always
c) When I let others know my employees deserve credit and I should always be mentioned
d) As a Manager I deserve most of the credit when we succeed
e) It’s me who’s responsible for overall results. My staff gets paid to make me look good
Your Sharing Style: Bragger Or Leader
Braggers take the majority of credit for their team’s accomplishments. They believe this impresses the higher ups. Braggers will also be first to lay the blame for problems on someone other than themselves. It this puts an individual team member – or everyone else but the Bragger – in an unfavourable light, at least the Bragger comes out smelling like roses. Or so the thinking goes.
Leaders, on the other hand, take less credit and accept more of the blame. From their perspective they are being the bigger person: it shows humility admitting personal responsibility for their team’s errors; and demonstrates self-confidence when highlighting their team’s role in triumphs.
Which Style Is Better?
Bragger versus Leader – is there a clear winner? We wish we could say that Leaders always get their due. It isn’t necessarily so. There are organizations that prize the image of “lone wolf” Managers doing no wrong.
Other employers take a more enlightened approach. Managers are measured on their leadership skills, not solely on their personal achievements or how boastful they are. Strong leaders who encourage their people to excel (but who don’t shirk from dealing with poor performers) thrive in such environments.
How To Be More Of A Leader, Less Of A Bragger
It’s easy to be a Bragger. All you have to do is constantly tout how great you are. When projects succeed, send memos to senior management saying you personally triumphed. Don’t mention anyone else involved. Then do the opposite when adversity strikes: blame the people who work for you. Leave out the fact that as their Manager it’s you who should have been there to be on top of things.
Leaders have a more difficult job than Braggers. As a Leader, you should be…
  • Rewarding the efforts of your employees by highlighting their individual achievements when informing senior managers about successes
  • Coaching and mentoring your staff so that each one has a better chance of meeting goals and deadlines
  • Providing training and development where needed so that your people can increase their skills and knowledge, which gives them a better chance of rising up the ranks (and risking that one of them may overshadow you one day)
  • Surrounding yourself with the best workers possible, rather than subordinates you can easily dominate
  • Accepting more of the blame when your team fouls up
  • Providing opportunities for those employees of yours who mess up to redeem themselves
Leading AND Bragging
When you become more of a Leader, your team will likely increase their respect for you. By accepting blame they may be willing to take manageable risks and push harder to reach goals. Why wouldn’t they if they know at the end of the day you’ll recognize their efforts?
On your way to evolving into a Leader you may at first have to give up being a Bragger. No more taking all the credit. So long to blaming your staff at the drop of a hat. Does this seem a bit scary for you? Don’t worry. If you do things properly, in the end it’s your staff who’ll be bragging about you loud and proud.