Do we encourage a culture of blame?

Do we encourage a culture of blame?

Our current culture promotes “blame, denial and rationalization” as our native tongue. Far more people speak, understand AND ACCEPT “blame denial and rationalization” than “100% responsibility”. We must wake up and face the brutal facts that we have succumbed to accepting excuse making over keeping our promises as our national language, and blame, denial and rationalization has become our native tongue. 

BY: Taylor Hartman, PhD

When was the last time you accepted full responsibility for a problem in your life? When was the last time you heard anyone say, “That’s completely my fault. I am 100% Responsible for what happened and will do whatever is necessary to make it right!” When did taking 100% responsibility for your thoughts and actions become the exception rather than the rule?

We have created a society of victims with a cultural backdrop that actually promotes “blame, denial and rationalization” rather than responsibility and ownership. Today, if you smoke three packs of cigarettes a day for forty years and die of lung cancer, your family blames the tobacco company. If your child misbehaves in school, you give him the label ADHD and medicate him. If your neighbor crashes into a tree while driving home after too many drinks at the bar, he blames the bartender.

100% Responsibility Club

Have you noticed today that when something goes wrong, how rarely anyone steps forward to take ownership for creating the problem? Even rarer is the individual who takes 100% responsibility for creating the problem AND accepts ownership for providing a solution. Those individuals and/or companies who pay their membership dues by exposing their vulnerability (“It was my fault!”) and accept ownership for resolving the problem (“How can I make it right with you?”) earn the privilege to become exclusive members of the 100% Responsibility Club. Trust me, this club is highly exclusive and holds its members in strict adherence to principles, which far exceed the general public’s expectations.

The 100% Responsibility Club has members from all around the world. One of the club’s founding fathers in the club’s North American Franchise was General Robert E. Lee. He is still regarded as the most beloved general to serve in the American military. After the pivotal battle in the American Civil War at Gettysburg, he asked to be relieved of his command.

“No blame can be attached to the army for its failure to accomplish what was projected by me... I alone am to blame, in perhaps, expecting too much of its prowess and valor... could I have foreseen that the attack on the last day would fail, I should certainly have tried some other course... but I do not know what better course I could have pursued.”

Could you describe the disappointments in your life as respectfully as General Robert E. Lee did on numerous occasions throughout both his personal life and professional career? Members of this elite club can. As with all true principles, the rewards for membership far out weigh the dues. Yet, few of us are willing to pay our dues simply because we lack the emotional intelligence to do so. Compare two recent experiences I had with major companies. The first displayed no responsibility and the second assumed full responsibility. Guess who gets my future business?


I think their slogan used to be “We try harder.” Not anymore... or at least not at the Orange County Airport. I arrived very late at night with luggage in tow. I went directly to the Avis counter in the parking structure, some distance from the arrival gate at the airport. There was not another soul for miles—just the rental agent and me.

He informed me that I must return to the upstairs counter in order to get my car because he could not process my paperwork. Seasoned business traveler that I am, I informed him that it seemed a rather arduous and unnecessary task at this very late hour. My flight had already been delayed and I had hoped to get to my hotel by midnight. He sighed deeply—clearly perturbed by my insistence that he accommodate me.

“Perhaps I will do you the favor of making this one-time exception,” he said. “Thanks” is all I can muster, knowing full well that it will be the only exception he’ll ever have the chance to make for me because I am never renting from this Avis again. His deep sigh, dismissing any responsibility for helping resolve the problem pleasantly was quite pricey considering how often I rent vehicles.


Same week. Different town. I’m in New York City at the Renaissance Marriott Hotel. I am staying there expressly because I have been told how this hotel beat out Marriott for the annual NYC Customer Service Award and was subsequently purchased by Marriott under the adage, “If you can’t beat them, buy them.” Staying with them was not a great experience. Relocated rooms once because of noise being too close to the elevator (shame on me!) and wasted two hours and $15 on cab fare headed the wrong direction due to the concierge’s error in writing the wrong address. But, not altogether a bad experience.

Upon checking out, the receptionist asked about my stay. “It was OK” were my exact words. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “How could we have made your stay with us better, Dr. Hartman?” I told her. She offered some form of compensation. I declined. She offered again. Again, I declined and said that I should have complained about the specific problems I had encountered to the appropriate person at the time. She pressed me once again; “I won’t feel right about our relationship until I can be assured the same experience won’t happen again.” I assured her that she already had and that I would definitely be back.

Transaction vs. relationship

The Avis agent was only concerned with completing a transaction. The Marriott receptionist focused on building a relationship. Quality relationships require 100% responsibility. The ability to take 100% responsibility requires valuing yourself (your product, your service) so much that you can afford to be wrong, make mistakes, be vulnerable, make amends and still affirm your value to the party who feels wronged or offended. It requires a true leap of faith that by taking 100% responsibility for the relationship and doing right by others in every situation, you free yourself to succeed.

Talk about going against the grain and swimming upstream! Nothing is more counter to our current victim culture of making excuses for ourselves and blaming others than the theory of taking 100% responsibility for your relationships.

By taking 100% responsibility for every relationship, we expand our options. We increase our control over ourselves, and all factors that have an impact on the relationship. Take anything less than 100% and we limit our options to create high performance and get the desired results. Wouldn’t you rather be in charge of your destiny than have someone else control your life?

  1. Value yourself enough to be wrong.
  2. Respect yourself enough to own the problem.
  3. Trust yourself enough to seek proactive resolutions for solving problems and building legitimate relationships.

Being 100% responsible frees you to act... to create solutions... to win! As long as you give any percentage of responsibility away to someone else, they can hold you hostage. If they don’t behave as you expect them to, they own you. A long time ago, someone probably lied to you and suggested that the best way to navigate life was to assume as little responsibility as possible. They did you a huge disservice and now is the time for you to hear and embrace the truth. Becoming 100% responsible for yourself and your relationships is the right thing to do. Like a daily regiment of lifting weights, it is challenging, but with proper emotional fitness, it is tremendously freeing. 

*Excerpted with permission from "The 100% Responsibility Club," by Taylor Hartman, PhD. Dr. Hartman is a keynote speaker at the 2013 NBJ Summit

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