Last week, we talked about taking blame versus taking responsibility. For many leaders, distinguishing between the two can be difficult; in our sincere desire to take responsibility, we often assign ourselves blame — and blame is never productive.

It can be even more difficult when those on our team want to assign the blame towards us, too. 

Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of situations where leaders do need to take responsibility and apologize. In many companies, rampant abuse of power has been a serious problem. But there are also times where the manager, boss, or leader gets more than their fair share of blame — because it’s easy to pin the blame on you. 

There are so many factors influencing peoples’ needs, hopes, frustrations, etc, beyond just their manager. If a team member is expressing frustration at you, something you’ve done, or your leadership style, it’s important to remember this:

First, of course, stop and listen. Hear the criticism, and honestly, humbly, earnestly self-assess and see if their complaint is accurate. If it is, it’s time to do some adjusting.

However, if it’s not — if, after real self-reflection and review of the facts, you can honestly say that it’s not a fair criticism of your behavior — that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You are, after all, a leader here; it’s your job to help find a solution, whatever that may be. If they’re directing their frustration at you, even though you don’t believe it’s your fault, consider what else may be giving them grief. What else is causing stress or anxiety? How can you use this moment as learning and connecting moment to support them, even as they’re expressing anger?

You see, our job as leaders is not to clear ourselves of blame, wash our hands of it, and leave them to figure it out. Our job as leaders is to meet them where they’re at and support them through a solution. Our job is not to take it personally, but to build connection, and find a way for everyone to succeed.

Are you up to the task?