Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Blame Handles

Blame Handles. Thats what I call it when people - in my case mostly users of the systems my group administers - grab onto something and blame it for (all) their problems. Oddly it's almost never the actual cause of their woes and most usually, it's something that they have no idea about. Many times it's a buzzword - if even only local. Allot of the time it's a new system or an update to an old one that gets to be the scapegoat.

In my world the most popular blame handles are "the wireless network" and "VPNs". Sometimes it's just "the network" or even in some really scary cases, "the computers". If you ask the persons using these terms what they mean they usually throw up their hands and shake their heads. If you ask why they think that x blame handle is the problem they sometimes even get angry. Like it should be obvious to you that they are correct.

I find myself getting frustrated when my users do this. I'm the guy that usually knows what the real cause is (when it's a technology problem) and can even usually find a way to get it fixed. When the next unrelated problem shows up and the users again wield the same blame handle I pull my hair. "That has never been your problem! Why do you persist in blaming it!" I hear myself say. Only to get the head shake and angry reactions...

Lately I've come to a couple of conclusions. The first is that I'm sure I do it too. I think it's a human trait. I'm not sure what I do it with though. My guess is that if it were something that I understood I wouldn't do it. So I'm watching for the time that someone asks me why I'm blaming whatever it is. Instead of throwing up my hands and shaking my head - I'm going to ask why they are sure it isn't and see if I can learn something. The second conclusion - well it kind of smarts to admit. I'm sure in my professional position, that I myself (or at least my name) is actually or could easily be a blame handle for someone.

My resolution for the week. Don't be a blame handle - or at least have a pocket full of others to offer up in my stead.

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