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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.


Dear Career Coach,

How would you suggest dealing with people who never take responsibility for their actions?

It seems to be inevitable that at some stage in our careers we come up against slick and articulate colleagues who manage to avoid having anything negative stick to them. What’s interesting is that there are more people at work who are aware of how this person behaves then we might appreciate, but who also don’t know quite how to deal with him.

Have you ever wondered why your colleague behaves in this way? While some organisations encourage employees to be innovative and challenging and unafraid to fail, the culture in many companies makes being associated with failure an extremely risky proposition. This can sometimes be a reason why some people do everything possible to avoid taking the blame. On the other hand, there are people who just feel the need always to be the star of the show and this can be the result of anything from a deep-seated sense of insecurity to an in-built desire to constantly show off.

One approach might be to focus less on trying to disprove what your colleague says he has done and put more effort into giving credit to the person or people who were responsible for the achievement. By publicly congratulating the person who did a good job, and even asking them to share with the group and your manager how they did it, your boastful colleague will be less able to claim the credit.

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If you are a constant target for him to shift the blame onto, it’s worth considering whether you are inviting this by not being sufficiently assertive when it happens. Bullies only get away with what they can get away with and if he sees that you are not willing or able to fight your corner effectively, it may well be making him a lot bolder in using his blame-deflection tactics on you.

Habitually shifting the blame for problems is your colleague’s way of trying to escape responsibility for his shortcomings and preserving his preferred self-image or how he would like others to see him. As your colleague clearly doesn’t suffer from enough guilt or shame to take the blame when it is warranted, you will have to take action to stop him evading responsibility for his actions and manipulating other people’s impressions of you and your competence.

By clearly calling attention to what actually contributed to the success or failure of a project, and enlisting the corroboration of your other team members, you can reduce his ability to distort the facts.

While he may be very articulate, remember that you have the facts on your side. Stick to the facts when you find yourself being accused of his errors – losing control of your emotions will make it harder for you to defend yourself - and patiently demonstrate where your responsibilities began and ended, and where he was accountable for his part in the problem.

If your colleague has no plans to change his tactics of playing the blame game, it’s essential that you change yours.

All the best!

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