WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT THIS SELF-IMPOSED “TAX” IS KILLING YOU

DeAnna Murphy, Lisa Gregory, and Steve Jeffs.

In the United States, no one looks forward to April 15, the dreaded Tax Day. Yet, you may be experiencing a version of it every day, suffering under the burden of an added 36% “tax” whether you realize it or not. It likely has more of a devastating impact on your life than you may have calculated. This tax we’re referring to is not a tax you see deducted from your paycheck, although it does take a huge chunk out of your mental, financial, and physical resources. It also kills your performance and energy, and it sucks the life right out of your relationships. The worst part about it? You are bringing it upon yourself every single time you get caught in the blame-game.

In a 2018 global People Acuity study of 1,800 people, 50% identified their organization as having the highest possible blame score, and another 33% were at moderate blame. Interestingly, individuals who experience high blame are 95% more likely to have low Work Joy, engagement, and productivity, and 97% more likely to be part of a dysfunctional team.   Additionally, when blame is high individual performance is 36% lower. Hence, the 36% “tax” that takes the wind out of your sails and can even derail your career. It certainly did for U.S. President Richard Nixon, whose aides suggested that his propensity to blame was behind the entire Watergate scandal and brought down his entire administration. 

You might wonder why anyone would stay in the kind of self-destruct cycle created by blame when they could stop it any time they wanted to. You might even want to but may not know how, nor feel motivated to shift your situation. That is normal, by the way, given that when you are in a high-blame experience, the statistical likelihood of proactively trying to mitigate or change the situation is less than 5%. It can be done, though, if you’re willing to pay the price and make the needed changes. 

I had a front row seat just last week as I watched it happen. A woman in a miserable place in her career confided in me that she was preparing to quit her job, despite a fifteen-year track record with her company. The blame-game was alive and well in her work life and had progressed to the point that she had stopped talking to everyone she was frustrated with, except to send cryptic, angry emails. Obviously, these got her nowhere and she sadly told me she felt “invisible” – even though her only efforts to resolve her problem were these vague indirect emails. She was caught paying the self-imposed “tax” on her energy and performance, recently resulting in severe, stress-related health issues that caused her a lot of pain and time away from work. 

By this point, we had spent two days together, along with her boss whom she had not spoken to in over two months. We had been discovering strategies for breaking the blame barrier and shifting the organization’s people culture to be better aligned with the new Human Economy. With her pending resignation as her only other viable option, she decided she had nothing to lose by trying out one of the tools she had learned for re-setting a frustrated relationship. She got bold and invited her boss into an unconditionally curious conversation, designed to create understanding and proactive agreements to strengthen the relationship.

Two hours later, she emerged from her boss’ office smiling, thanking her repeatedly as she bounded down the hall. When I saw her again three days later, she seemed to be thirty pounds lighter and ten years younger. Her eyes were sparkling and there was a spring her step. “I haven’t felt like this for years,” she told me. “I’m so glad to find a way out of the blame-game!” 

So, what about you?  How do you feel about getting out of the blame-game? There’s a price to pay whether you stay in blame or you find your way out of it: the pain of surrendering your ego and finding a new way to respond, or the pain of paying that 36% performance tax.  Which one is greater? That is the real question, at least if you’re deep in blame.

To learn more about how to reduce or eliminate this tax altogether, contact us at info@peopleacuity.com or select “Free Resources” at the top of this page to learn more.


Written by DeAnna Murphy, Lisa Gregory, and Steve Jeffs, who lead the People Acuity Thought Leader team and are the authors of the book Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living. They are also the creators of a validated people culture measurement tool evaluating Work Joy, Team Connection, Confident Vulnerability™ and Proactivity. Between them they have worked in nearly 60% of the Fortune 500 and Global 1000 firms and collectively hold over one hundred certifications and international and national recognitions. To book one of them as a speaker at your next event, or to learn more about rising to the new Human Economy standards, contact info@peopleacuity.com