March 15, 2023


Tags: General, Memories

Some time ago the news included a story about the British government hiring an Australian ex-politician to be a trade envoy during the Brexit upheavel. I thought this was an understandable move from the point-of-view of British politicians and civil servants. If it all went badly (as was likely) thay could just blame the Aussie and sack him.

It reminded me of the blame management I sometimes saw while working at large firms. At a couple of places there was a layer of management usually above the team managers and below senior managers that had “taking the blame” as a big part of their implicit job description. At some places outside consultants seemed to occupy the same role. Officially they were always in charge of this or that project, but had no direct power to get work done. They had responsibility without authority. If things didn’t succeed they got the blame for events outside their control. The cynic would suggest they were just the sacrificial lambs to ensure the senior managers remained unblemished. Rarely did any technical (ie non-management) get serious blame for the larger problems. Smaller things we got the blame for all the time, often deservedly, but here I mean the larger failures noticable to senior management. I wonder if this was the same outside the IT world? I suspect in my world blaming the people close to the work (like Software Engineers) would be counter-productive as we could just leave and get another job very easily. I also assume senior management never considered themselves the problem.

I developed a rule of thumb for identifying blame managers. If you job was to “coordinate” or other vague terms that seemed to describe a lack of concrete responsibilty, you were safe. You could probably worm yourself out of a bad situation. If your job was “delivery” or running a project and you did not actually have any resources or subordinates, especially if you are in a matrix-based organisation - watch out!