Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Scapegoat

There is a saying: “to err is human; to forgive, divine”.

Most of us are not divine, hence the reason why there is not a lot of forgiveness in the world.

A manager I worked for quite a few years ago, used to insist that the work environment was “not a blame culture”.

But it is, and it always will be.

I actually used that quote to the manager in question.

She said “It’s YOUR fault, Dave.”

And I said “Yes – it is. I made a mistake. To err is human; to forgive, divine. So if you forgive me, that makes you a Goddess!”

I think she thought I was flirting with her (I probably was – apparently I do this quite a lot: read about it here ).

Make a mistake and you will be pounced upon and blamed. You will be a scapegoat, depending, of course, on the nature of the mistake.

I have watched this happen repeatedly within the working environment for all of my working life and the hypocrisy and arrogance that walks hand in hand with finding a scapegoat is breathtakingly obvious to me – yet, unbelievably, missed by a lot of people.

We see it every day in the news and in life.

People are unwilling to admit to making mistakes.

Let me start a trend here:

I make mistakes.

I have always made mistakes.

I will continue to make mistakes.


It is not because I am crap at everything I do.

It is not because I am a useless good-for-nothing buffoon.

It is not because I am stupid.

It is not because I am careless.

It is because I am a human being.

Everybody makes mistakes, even those who claim not to make mistakes and see themselves as perfect human beings.

These people are not perfect – they are arrogant and deluded.

We strive for perfection these days. When I was a young man, we seemed to be able to cope with people failing at something. These days it is totally different – particularly in business.

I’ve joked about the overuse of the word “excellence” before (read about it here ) but the essence of that post is serious.

We have to appear to be flawless in every aspect of our work, these days. Whatever you do, it has to be perfect. If something goes wrong then the hunt begins; the hunt for the scapegoat.

I’ve seen this many times and not just in my line of business. The best example is “The Apprentice” where the hunt for scapegoat is played out in front of an audience who love the smell of blood. The difference here is that the victims will never, ever admit to the so-called mistake that led to failure.

Why? Because they think they are perfect; they think that they are divine.

They are not – they are human, with all of the flaws that entails. This clip sums up exactly what I mean:

It illustrates how people claim to be better than they are and use the term “idiot” when referring to mistakes that they themselves invariably make.

By this standard, I am an idiot.

But I know different – I am human.

I make mistakes.

Everybody does, including you, dear reader. Sorry for that bombshell – but it’s true.

Ultimately, the global culture now seems to be driven by this striving for excellence and if you cannot convince people that you truly are excellent then you are made a scapegoat and seen as a failure.

I think that it is about time things changed.

If people admit, to me, that they made a mistake I am much more likely to think better of them than if they deny it or blame it on somebody else.

Ultimately, this is why I like “The Apprentice” because it takes a bunch of people who think that they are excellent, think that they never make mistakes and are exposed as being just as flawed as the rest of us mere mortals.

What I will say is this; if you make mistakes, and admit them, then you are, in my view, a much better person than somebody who will sit there and watch others take the blame for their mistakes.

Sadly, I don’t have anybody to blame for this blog post and if there are mistakes in it then they are all my fault.

But of course their wil bee no missteaks at hall. Why? Becos I am NOT youman – I am deevine.

Or maybe I'm just a scapegoat.


drb said...

Hi Mr PM!
How was your break from blogging?
I don't mind people making mistakes and they will be forgiven if they owed up to it. However, I can't accept the same mistake from the same person twice.

Thrice??!! You are FIRED!

Apprentice is one of my fav shows too, plus Amazing Race and Survivor (another major scapegoat hunt).

Elephant's Child said...

I'm with you. I do make mistakes. Lots of them. I try not to make the same ones twice though.

River said...

I make mistakes everyday and freely admit to them, because then they can be fixed so much quicker. I find there's no point compounding a problem by trying to hide the mistake. And blaming others is not my style.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi drb,

I love your comments :-)

I tend only to make mistakes once.

At least I think so. Please don't fire me ;-)

I'm already looking forward to the new series of the Apprentice - whenever that is...




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

You and me both. And as I said to drb - I try to learn from them.

I think I'm doing alright.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I think we need to admit mistakes - how else will we learn from them?

I just wish more people would admit their errors. It can be a source of frustration for me when they don't - and I KNOW they have made them.




Kath Lockett said...

Very well said, PM!

I made a huge mistake yesterday on an article I was paid to write. I owned up to it, rewrote it, send him an explanation and said to Love Chunks, "Oh well, I don't think he'll bother to use my services again."

Only to discover this morning that he's ordered some more work from me!

Word verification - SNERF - a person who refuses to tolerate mistakes made by others whilst ignoring their own. Invariably has their head up their own arse, making a 'snerf' sound when trying to say things like, "We don't have a blame culture in this office."

Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

Another great comment :-)

I love the SNERF definition and there are a few people who I have worked with who are definitely SNERFS.




Christine said...

Yep... I'm another who makes mistakes, thousands and thousands last count. The difficult thing is when I make mistakes amid perfection. And there I go, a blot on the face of humanity... except, really, the humanity bit becomes rather questionable in those circumstances. I usually own up when I become aware of making a mistake. I guess, seriously, many 'mistakes' may occur when either side does not understand the other, or is not fully informed. The dynamics of mistakes, the making of them and the restitution that follows is a complex business.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Christine,

I agree about the misunderstanding comment - and that in itself is a mistake that people make. Either one party doesn't explain himself well or the other party doesn't quite understand fully.

This happens all the time in my line of business.