Should you take the blame for things that are not your fault?

It’s not their fault.

But they take the blame anyway.

Thirty per cent of senior managers say they have accepted blame in the office for something that was not their fault, according to a new survey released by staffing service OfficeTeam. The survey was based on phone interviews with more than 1,000 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees.

Managers who said they had taken the blame for something that was not their fault also were asked why they did it. About one-third (34%) said they felt directly responsible for the problem, and 28% said they did not want to get others in trouble.

One-quarter of respondents said it wasn’t worth arguing over who was responsible because the infraction was minor.

Nonetheless, OfficeTeam Executive Director Robert Hosking advised against taking the blame for something that isn’t your fault.

“It’s best to accept responsibility when you’ve made a mistake at work,” Hosking said. “However, sometimes professionals feel compelled to take the blame for something they didn’t do. Depending on the infraction, being the scapegoat only hurts your own reputation.”

OfficeTeam offered additional tips for dealing with the blame game at work:

  • Move on. Don’t get involved in finger pointing when things go wrong. Focus on what should be done to resolve the issue and avoid similar problems in the future.
  • Create accountability. Make sure responsibilities for every project are clearly outlined. Document each person’s responsibilities and contributions.
  • Give proper credit. Call attention to group successes and acknowledge colleagues’ accomplishments. Provide status reports to your manager to make sure you get the recognition you are due.

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.