The Blame Game

How the Hidden Rules of Credit and Blame Determine Our Success or Failure

The Blame Game

FROM HIS YEARS OF EXPERIENCE CONSULTING to leading companies, psychologist Ben Dattner has discovered that at the root of the worst problems we confront at work is the skewed allocation of blame and credit. In so many workplaces, people feel they’re playing a high-stakes game of “blame or be blamed,” which can be disastrous for the individuals who get caught up in it and can sink teams and afflict whole companies. Dattner presents compelling evidence that whether we fall into the trap of playing the blame game or learn to avoid the pitfalls is a major determinant of how successful we will be.

The problem is that so many workplaces foster a blaming culture. Maybe you have a constantly blaming boss, or a colleague who is always taking credit for others’ work. All too often, individuals are scapegoated, teams fall apart, projects get derailed, and people become disengaged because fear and resentment have taken root. And what’s worse, the more emotionally charged a workplace is—maybe our jobs are threatened or we’re facing a particularly difficult challenge—the more emphatically people play the game, just when trust and collaboration are most needed. What can we do? We can learn to understand the hidden dynamics of human psychology that lead to this bad behavior so that we can inoculate ourselves against it and defuse the tensions in our own workplace.

In lively prose that is as engaging as it is illuminating, Dattner tells a host of true stories of those he has worked with—from the woman who was so scapegoated by her colleagues that she decided to quit, to the clueless boss who was too quick to blame his staff. He shares a wealth of insight from the study of human evolution and psychology to reveal the underlying reasons why people are so prone to blaming and credit-grabbing; it’s not only human nature, it’s found throughout the animal kingdom. Even bats do it. He shows how our family experiences, gender, and culture also all shape the way we cope with credit and blame issues, and introduces eleven personality types that are especially prone to causing difficulties and illustrates how we can best cope with them. He also profiles how a number of outstanding leaders, from General Dwight Eisenhower and President Harry Truman to highly respected business figures such as former Intel CEO Andy Grove and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, employed the power of taking blame and sharing credit to achieve great success.

The only winning move in the blame game, Dattner shows, is not to play, and the insights and practical suggestions in this book will help readers, at any level of any organization and at any stage of their careers, learn to manage the crucial psychology of credit and blame for themselves and others.
  • Free Press | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439169582 | 
  • March 2011
List Price $16.99


Does THE BLAME GAME help or hurt you?

Workplace consultant reveals how blaming and credit-claiming damages careers and business results and shows how to protect against such practices.

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About the Author

Ben Dattner
Seth Dinnerman

Ben Dattner

Ben Dattner is the founder of Dattner Consulting, a workplace consulting firm that helps corporate and non-profit organizations sort through their credit and blame issues in order to enhance individual, team and organizational performance. His clients include companies ranging from small start ups to global corporations, non-profit and educational institutions, and government agencies. Dattner is also an Adjunct Professor at New York University, where he teaches Organizational Development in the Industrial and Organizational Psychology MA Program in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He has also taught Strategic Career Management in the Executive MBA Program at NYU Stern Business School. Ben received a BA in Psychology from Harvard College, and an MA and Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from New York University. He lives in New York City and his website is

Darren Dahl has worked as a collaborative writer and editor with several high-profile authors such as Keith McFarland on The Breakthrough Company (a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today best-seller), as well as intellectual property experts Mark Blaxill and Ralph Eckardt on their book, The Invisible Edge (Named best strategy book of the year in 2009 by Strategy+Business). Dahl is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He has also written for The New York Times and AOL Small Business. He lives in Asheville, NC.