Is the “Passing the Pain Game” costing your company time and money? Some examples of the game: To read the rest of this article from the Washington Business Journal, see: Passing pain, casting blame cost time and money http://washington.bizjournals.com/washington/stories/2004/09/13/smallb7.html
For details, see the original article.
- A customer reams out a salesman. Part of a job wasn’t done the way the customer wanted. The salesman doesn’t know what went wrong but he doesn’t want the blame. He placates the customer by exploding and blaming a department he says was responsible. He tells the customer he’ll have those people fired. Then he yells at innocent victims in that department.
- A new manager is panicking. He has to present his project to senior leaders on Friday. It’s Monday morning and he still hasn’t received information from a manager in another department. He e-mails her and vents his fear and frustration; he harasses, bullies and abuses her. He tells her he’s tired of begging, he needs the *&@# information right away, he counted on her and she’s let him down. What the *&@# is wrong with her? All in capital letters. To cover his back, he copies his vice-president.
- A director stomps into a supervisor’s office, scowling along the way and slams the door. Anxiety and tension spread at the speed of gossip. People congregate to speculate: Did she meet with the big bosses yesterday? Did she get reamed? Did we mess up? Who’s going to get blamed next? Fear spirals, staff finds excuses to be in other areas, productivity tanks.
Other variants are:
- Some players set up other people to fight. They plant seeds of doubt and jealousy, and enjoy the bloodletting that follows.
- Some leaders specialize in negativity, finding fault, bullying and spreading blame when something goes wrong. Since no one wants to be the victim of mistakes, everyone carries a “blame thrower.”
Is that game familiar? People feel hurt, scared and angry, and inflict their pain on someone else. The game is also called, “Who has the rattlesnake?”
How much does the game cost? Try this method of calculation: Estimate the time you’ve spent dealing with uproars, multiply by the number of people who bring their pain to you, multiply again by the number of innocent spectators you and they draw into the ever widening circle of players, factor in salary and productivity wasted. Add in a fudge factor for your level of frustration.
Pretty large number, isn’t it?
It’s important to have a code of conduct stating that passing the pain and throwing blame is not acceptable. But that’s not enough. Most people already know that. They just don’t follow the code when they’re suffering, scared, angry or supporting friends in a vendetta.
For example, in one training on this subject, some managers questioned why I was wasting their time presenting information they already knew. So I showed them the e-mails their department heads had given me, in which these same managers had used their blame throwers on each other. They had perpetuated an intense game that scorched everyone in their departments and all senior leaders.
The trick is to stop the Pass the Pain Game in everyday behavior. A few suggestions – see the original article for details:
- Change has to come from the top.
- Companies point to the culture they want when they publish codes of professional conduct.
- Policies and codes are not enough.
- Change begins with individuals committed to adult behavior, and consequences for childish temper tantrums.
Passing the pain and throwing blame are destructive. Another reason to stop: your boss doesn’t appreciate the pain you’re dumping on him.
Often, individuals need coaching and organizations need consulting to help them design and implement a plan that fits the situation. To get the help you need, call Ben at 1-877-828-5543.