Our blame culture, leadership lessons and an envelope

by Mar 5, 2017

How the world stopped because of an envelope –  the blame culture at work


Blame culture

I am not an award season follower. I watch the news headlines and because I love music and movies I am aware of who wins what. But you would have had to have been living in a box to have missed the Oscar “wrong envelope” debacle. It seemed to be the world had gone mad especially when the blame culture kicked in to hunt down the perpetrator. Seriously. It was an Agatha Christie, Cluedo style investigation morphed into #EnvelopeGate.

The movements and motives of every key player were accounted for. Photos were tracked. A global analysis of the situation took off, with social and regular media kicking in big time. It also happened to be a welcome diversion from Trump who for once refrained from his 0300 tweetings.

Read: Values based leadership needed more than ever

But such is the world we are living in that we had to find someone to blame. We didn’t care who – we needed someone to peg this on.  Why do we keep doing this? So, blame culture is defined in the Business Dictionary  as:

A set of attitudes such as those within a particular business or organization, that are characterized by an unwillingness to take risks or to accept responsibility for mistakes due to a fear of criticism or prosecution.

Blame culture is about retribution and perfectionism

I think that is being kind. Blame culture is more than that. It really is about finding someone to take responsibility for even the smallest error and holding them accountable. That is making them feel bad and punishing them. Retribution is demanded. Which makes us feel better.  It puts us in a “better than” position. It’s about being so driven by a need to be perfect that there is no room for error. And when that error occurs, it is treated brutally. It makes us feel good about ourselves. It wasn’t us. Thank heavens.

There is something in this need to be perfect that  stops us from being in the moment, maybe looking faintly ditzy and saying:

“not sure what’s going on here  – this doesn’t seem right.”

Now it could be that Warren Beatty was “so vain” and didn’t have his glasses on to read the card. Or was it Leonardo di Caprio came onto the stage from the right not left side and got everything out of sync? Or was the PWC partner responsible for handing out the right envelope, tweeting at a critical moment?

The real question is does it matter? Sh*t happens and we just have to go with it.

Going with the flow

Put this into sharp contrast with Adele at the Grammy’s who got off to a false start in her tribute to George Michael. She swore (profanely) stopped the show and started again.

Some will say that the Moonlight winners didn’t get their true moment of fame. They may make a statement about a black, gay man being up-staged by an envelope. One thing for sure is that no one will ever forget the Oscars 2017. It wasn’t a conspiracy. It was an error. And mistakes are made. It happens.

Read: Authenticity in leadership needed more than ever

“In the overall scheme of things we have to ask ourselves how important was it really? It was an award show for movie stars celebrating themselves. Legal action has been threatened and catastrophic language about the reputation and the competence of the entire firm called into question. Bearing in mind that PWC is a global entity with 220000 + employees.  The offenders now need bodyguards because of death threats.

But the support Adele received for her honesty and authenticity is a testament to what people really want. And how open their hearts are.  That was a leadership lesson.  Damien Chazelle the Producer of La La Land called out as the winner in error, was gracious to a fault. That is leadership.

The rest is media circus.


If you need leadership support in your organisation contact 3Plus.


Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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