team members accusing each other by pointing fingersOh, if only work teams could all get along. But it usually doesn’t work that way, and often due to three destructive elements: whataboutism, finger-pointing and playing the blame game—all of which are toxic if left unchecked. 

When Vida Aventura clients need help with underperforming teams, toxicity is usually a part of it. As Dr. Terry Bradberry describes, “Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons.” 


Three Common Toxic Tactics

It’s crucial that leaders know what it looks like when whataboutism, finger-pointing or the blame game are at play within teams. And once those behaviors are identified, leaders must then actually do something about them. Here are the definitions of these three common toxic tactics:

      • Whataboutism: the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter accusation or raising a different issue.
      • Finger-Pointing: a situation in which someone is blamed for something that goes wrong.
      • The Blame Game: a situation in which people try to blame each other for something bad that has happened.

Toxic Corporate Culture? Goodbye, Employees

Did you know that toxic corporate culture is the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition? It’s even 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. Toxic culture includes things like failing to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, workers feeling disrespected, and unethical behavior. 

Leaders must put people first, and create a work environment in which holding each other accountable is not only acceptable within a team, but also encouraged and expected. When teams have a high level of comfort, trust and respect for each other, members are able to speak freely and help each other maintain focus and productivity. This leads to more productive, cohesive teams, and happier employees

To further explore the three toxic workplace tactics of whataboutism, finger-pointing and blame games, here are some articles I think you’ll like. And if you’re interested in developing people-first leaders and cultivating people-centric organizations, we’re ready to help


Confronting The Workplace Whataboutism, by Michelle Rathman:

“Those who use whataboutisms in their workplace interactions typically pit two wrongs against one another, spinning their side to be the more virtuous of the wrongdoings and, therefore, not wrong at all. Professional grade whatabouters are masterful in the art of distorting the truth and veering off to dizzying irrelevance. There’s a reason you feel exhausted after listening to them.”


3 Signs Your Team Doesn’t Have an Ownership Mindset and What To Do About It,

“The disaster at Chernobyl resulted from a culture of strong-arming and finger-pointing, and was entirely preventable. It also played an outsized role in the Soviet Union’s demise, according to then-Premier Mikhail Gorbachev – more than glasnost, perestroika, blue jeans, rock n’ roll, and Coca-Cola combined.”


Blame Culture is Toxic. Here’s How to Stop It, by Michael Timms, Harvard Business Review:

“Gottman argues that the most destructive behaviors in relationships are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. My work helping organizations create a stronger culture of accountability has led me to conclude that the most lethal behavior is actually blame. Blame encompasses the four behaviors listed above, and in my experience, it’s what we must tackle first.”



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Feature image credit: Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash


Most leaders struggle with disengagement, dysfunction, and non-productive behaviors with their teams. We deliver training that develops leaders and engages teams to increase your company results.