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7 Examples of Blame Shifting

Blame shifting is a failure of accountability whereby an individual or organization attempts to place blame on individuals who aren't accountable for a failure. The following are illustrative examples.


The practice of strongly and unfairly assigning blame to an individual, group or organization that is unpopular. For example, a consultant who blames a customer for a product failure in an environment of corporate narcissism where customers are viewed as incompetent and insiders as flawless.

Them vs Us

Blaming an out-group for a failure. This is a unsavory technique that seeks to leverage or create biases, divisions and discord between groups of people. For example, blaming immigrants who may be relatively powerless for failures caused by an elite.

Management By Crisis

A hands-off leader who fails to manage anything until a crisis occurs at which point they jump in to assign blame and act the hero.

Delegation of Accountability

Responsibility can be delegated but accountability remains with those with authority. In other words, a leader or manager is still accountable for a failure where they have delegated responsibility. Blame shifting occurs where such leaders fail to own this accountability. For example, a CFO who blames an accounting manager for financial mismanagement.

Setting Up To Fail

The practice of intentionally assigning work that is likely to fail in order to assign blame. For example, a manager who feels threatened by a team member's talent who regularly assigns action items to this individual that are certain to fail.

Disavowing a Role

When a project is a success, people who contributed nothing or little to the initiative may suddenly appear to take credit. Likewise, when an initiative fails people will downplay their role or claim to have never been involved at all. This is the basis for the truism "Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan" coined by Count Caleazzo Ciano in the early 20th century.

Human Error

It is very common for organizations to assign blame to a human error caused by a low level employee. This may ignore latent human error such as flawed processes, procedures and tools. For example, a bank that blames a massive trading loss on human error whereby a trader entered quantity as price and vice versa. This ignores the more relevant fact that the software allowed this to occur without any validation.
Overview: Blame Shifting
A failure of accountability whereby an individual or organization attempts to place blame on individuals who aren't accountable for a failure.
Related Concepts

Negative Culture

This is the complete list of articles we have written about negative culture.
Abilene Paradox
Blame Shifting
Bozo Explosion
Corporate Narcissism
Failing Upwards
Gaming the System
Malicious Compliance
Mushroom Management
Naive Design
Perverse Incentives
Petty Authority
Service Culture
Setting Up to Fail
Tone At The Top
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