Author Q&A with Ben Dattner, Ph.D. by Ron Thomas

Why does credit and blame matter in the workplace?

Credit and blame are at the very heart of organisational psychology, and help determine whether individuals learn and grow in their careers or derail; whether teams take an open minded approach to the challenges they face or succumb to the temptation to scapegoat and blame, and whether entire organisations have cultures of trust and problem solving or instead waste time and effort on dysfunctional finger pointing. As an organisational psychologist, every time I work with a client or client organisation, the dynamics of credit and blame are what everyone is focused on. My role as a consultant and coach is to help individuals, teams, and entire organisations to reconsider their understanding of credit and blame, in order to stop negative cycles of blame and to create positive cycles of trust and collaboration.

Why is this topic timely?

Unfortunately, as the economy has tanked, there has been a “bull market” in blame. Whether it’s financial bailouts or oil spills, it seems every time one turns on the television there is some executive testifying before Congress on some topic or other, blaming other organisations rather than taking any accountability. This culture of blame permeates far too many organisations these days, and the result is that organisations fail to motivate their people, to innovate, or to acknowledge and fix deficiencies. Successful leaders, teams, and organisations are able to fight this trend, and to create environments where people are more focused on admitting mistakes and fixing things rather than on deflecting blame or trying to hoard credit.

What kinds of perspectives do you take on credit and blame in the book?

The book considers credit and blame from the point of view of individual psychology, relationships between individuals, dynamics within and between teams, and from the point of view of entire organisations. It also looks at leadership, and gives examples of how great leaders set a personal example for managing the dynamics of credit and blame in an open and positive manner. The book approaches credit and blame from both a theoretical and practical perspective, and I endeavored to balance descriptions with prescriptions.

Is there anything that a) readers and b) organisations can do to make things better?

Yes- there is an entire chapter that outlines specific things that individuals, organisations, and organisational leaders can do to make things better. These suggestions include tools to diagnose and evaluate one’s own credit and blame challenges and opportunities, as well as those of others. In addition to specific evaluative tools, this chapter also provides general advice about how to manage credit and blame for oneself and others in a more mindful and strategic way. This chapter should help individuals at every stage of their careers think in a new way about how they react to credit and blame, and how they assign it to others, and should help organisations and organisational leaders think in a new way about how the social psychology of the workplace can be understood and improved.

And what’s new about this book?

I must give credit to many other people for the ideas in this book, ranging from academics to business leaders, as well as many colleagues and clients. What I hope is new about this book is that it ties together theories, practices and examples into a single integrated picture of credit and blame, and considers credit and blame as causes of organisational behavior, rather than just as effects. Hopefully readers will gain a new way of looking at credit and blame, one that will help them more successfully navigate the dynamics of credit and blame in their workplaces and careers.

Where can more information about the book be found?

At Request a free ebook download via:


Ben Dattner is an executive coach and organizational development consultant. He has helped a wide variety of corporate and non-profit leaders, teams, departments and organizations become more successful by developing and utilizing a better understanding of the impact of individual psychology and group dynamics on all aspects of their performance. 

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, StrategyFocused HR-MENA, based in Dubai. He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf countries, also based in Dubai. A former CHRO who was based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Ron is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute [ ] covering the MENA region.