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Winning at Working: Bad Drum

Nan Russell -- How does blaming someone else help you? Shirking personal accountability by blaming others won't improve your chances of success in or out of the workplace. Here's what will.

"He who cannot dance will say: the drum is bad." Too many people I've encountered use a philosophy akin to this African proverb to navigate their work. It's easier to blame the drum or the boss, the co-worker or the company. Easier to criticize the workload, the training or lack of it, the pay or one's upbringing. And easier to fault anything and everyone rather than their own actions, choices, and results.

I hear too many creative excuses and too much blaming and finger pointing from people honing the craft of deflecting reflection. To them, it's always the drum or the drummer, never the dancer. Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. Blame. Blame. Blame.

You'll recognize them from their mantras: "It's not my job; I didn't get certified because the instructor didn't like me; no one trained me how to do it; I can't get the resources; it won't work; I missed the deadline because he didn't give me the information; she has it out for me; it's a good idea, but the boss won't like it; I can't get promoted because of favoritism; and the classic, it's not fair."

Listen closely and you'll find that these people believe their lack of promotion, poor finances, limited opportunities, and less than optimal life results have little to do with them, and everything to do with someone else.

But here's the question. How does blaming someone else help you? Shirking personal accountability by blaming others won't improve your dancing or your chances of winning at working. People who are winning at working don't waste time in the blame-game. They're busy figuring out how best not to repeat the error or the problem. They're looking at what they can do, what they can offer, what they can improve. And they're moving forward.

The story goes that in ancient Rome, as the scaffolding was removed from a construction project, the law required that the engineer who built the arch must be the first to stand underneath it. Publicly answerable for the work he did, the Roman engineer's life depended on it.

While your physical life may not depend on the quality of work you do, your financial, emotional and psychological one does. Every time you offer excuses, blame something, or point fingers at someone, you give away your power and control. Every time you don't attempt to solve the problem because it's difficult, you fortify a can't do mind set. And every time you waste time pinpointing who did what wrong, instead of improving the process or training or communication so it won't happen again, you trade future for past.

If you want to be winning at working, be like that Roman engineer. Take ownership for your decisions, your work products and your results. Come with solutions, ideas, suggestions, and enhancements. And use the winning at working mantra that starts with "I can."

People who are winning at working are self-reflective. They see themselves as accountable to themselves for offering the best of who they are, despite poor bosses, uncooperative co-workers, less than optimal conditions or challenging roadblocks. They create their own pockets of excellence where they can "dance." And, if in fact they finally determine that the drum is indeed a bad drum, they still don't blame it. They figure out how to get a good one.

Courtesy of Nan Russell

Named a 100 Top Thought Leader in 2014 by Trust Across America, Nan Russell is a professional speaker, workplace consultant, and the author of four books including: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture that Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation and The Titleless Leader. Her work insights column, Winning at Working, appears in numerous publications and she’s a blogger for on the topic of workplace trust. Prior to moving to the Rocky Mountains to pursue a life-dream as a writer, her career took her from a minimum wage employee to Vice President of multibillion dollar QVC. She holds degrees from Stanford and the University of Michigan. For more information, visit, or contact Nan at

© 2017 Nan S. Russell

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