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Damnjan Jovanovic
Damnjan Jovanovic

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Stop using "It blocking me" excuse

You now think it is impossible, it is not realistic, but let me take 10 minutes of your time to read this and think. You might change your mind.

You get it right, nothing block you to make progress, even if you are 100% sure that you don't have any impact, there are still things you can do, and not blame any external factor. I have a chance to form a small, agile team, consist of briliant and open-minded people. One of the first statements we agreed on was “We won’t let any external factor prevents us from achieving goals”. Another statement we want to achieve is “We never blame any internal or external factor for our unsuccess”.

There is five stage of “it blocks me” mantra, and I will show it one by one in detail and try to explain it with an example. I believe that everybody went through these mantras during professional career, most people get stuck on 3rd one, and they need just a little push, to jump into more desirable 4th or even better 5th.

Blame - It is all faults of others
Blame realistically - I could do something but it is pointless since other things are not ready
Blame with action - I did my part, but it failed because of others
Do your job - I did what I could, to make it works.
Master your job (No blame) - I did all I can do to finish my work independently of external factors

Blame 👎

Also known as: It is all faults of others
Manifest: Person who use it find it useful for escaping any responsibility, from work to the private life. She/he finds all the reasons for failing in other factors, such as politicians, boss, weather, etc. Blame person is never satisfied, always failing, but uses “It is all faults of others” mantra to make herself/himself happy and calm.
In team: This is the type of person in the team who never take any responsibility for any tasks, also do not participate in decisions because believes that individual can’t change anything. If you have a person like that in your surrounding or team, help them to understand that they always have an impact on the outcome.

Blame realistically 🤞

Also known as: I could do something, but it is pointless since other things are not ready
Manifest: This type of persons believe they do have a limited impact on external factors, and that prevents them from acting. But unlike typical blame person, they understand that they could do something, their part of the task, but still, the outcome won’t change since external factor may fail.
In team: In a team, you can spot realistic blamer as a person who is usually pessimistic, always take tasks only if all external factors are positive. Example of that could be frontend developer, who wants to start her/his work, only if backend part is done and visible. This type of person in a team does not perform any action until make sure that all component she/he depends on is in place.

Blame with action 🤙

Also known as: I did my part, but it failed because of others
Manifest: Person who do all tasks required to be done, not more not less. Blamer with action pays all his taxes, do all the tasks he found in Jira, he might not agree with all of them, but they “did their part”. Off course if anything fails, and if the external factor is involved, they would blame it with appetite, especially because their tasks are fulfilled.
In team: This type of personality is the most common in teams, they are usually reliable, hard workers, oriented to their own goals, and their own tasks. They measure the success of the sprint by their own tasks accomplished rather than team goal being achieved. Teams rely on them when it comes to the estimation and execution of their own tasks, but the team knows that this personality type won’t do anything to eliminate external factor impact. Even worst, she/he do not care about things outside of her/his scope.

Do your job 👌

Also known as: I did what I could, to make things works.
Manifest: This type of person, do everything her/his task requires if necessary creates a mock for an external factor if possible, but still blame external factor if there is an overall fail. “Do your job” person does not feel comfortable to take big responsibilities, he wants to do as much as he can even outside of his task scope, but still be happy only to present part he accomplishes as a success, and external fail as responsibly for overall fail.
In team: This is the person who takes all action to make goal achieved, she/he performs many additional tasks to ensure that their main task (goal) can be achieved, but if there is an external component which they couldn’t have an impact on, they will point that out clearly.

Master your job (No blame) 🤟

Also known as: I did all I can do to finish my work independently of external factors
Manifest: Person who takes critics, and personal fails as learnings. When you give them a feedback, they do not try to explain to you that you’re not right, or they won’t explain to you what you meant with your own feedback for them. They take it as a lesson to be learned. Especially negative feedback helps them to understand that something went wrong, and they can change it. This is the type of person who takes full responsibility, don’t judge others or external factor, she/he always try to do all they can to achieve a goal.
In team: No blamer do their job and make sure that they create an environment when they do not depend on some external factors. They define their scope and their goal to be possible without introducing too many external dependencies. They create a mock for everything they can. They do all in their power to make goal achieved. But if the goal is not achieved, they took full responsibility for it.


I’m particularly proud of my team that we want to go toward 5th step of taking responsibility. That already help us so much, we are so accurate, realistic and goal oriented during our sprint planning than I experienced ever before. Every team, every person could be in any of these 5 stages, our task is to recognize that, take responsibility and try to move toward the next upper stage.

It blocking me - is just an excuse

p.s. earthquakes, disaster, war, and similar events do not count as obstacles you can have any impact on, so they do not apply to this article.

Top comments (9)

lfosgett profile image
Lauren Fosgett

Great post @damnjan :)

Very helpful as I've been trying to explain this exact concept to a close colleague of mine. Your breakdown of each level of blame and taking ownership of responsibility is spot on.

damnjan profile image
Damnjan Jovanovic

Thank you @lfosgett for your positive feedback. I'm very happy and excited to hear that this writing can actually help someone to apply or try out new things.

pavsaund profile image
Pavneet Singh Saund

thanks for this post @damnjan !

I really like how you've broken your definition of "blaming others" into steps / levels. I especially like that you frame these as levels to progress along, and that no matter where you are you can improve or help others improve 👏. Really speaks towards having a growth / open mindset.

I'm reminded of this quote from Viktor Frankl:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning (recommended reading)

I do however think there is more to it than just acceptance and avoidance of external factors. Sometimes doing the work itself is part of the problem and the only way to actually fix it is to raise the issue and reassess. An example could be "building the right thing vs building the thing right" ie: does it even make sense to build this feature / product?

damnjan profile image
Damnjan Jovanovic

Thank you @pavsaund for such a positive feedback :)
I very much agree on your last paragraph, but in this particular post I was concentrating on avoiding constant blame on external factors, and focus on what you can do as an individual or as a team to make your environment independent.
I believe what you imply here, is that necessary dose of criticism must be presented inside team all the time, not just take tasks for granted. Am I right?

Thank you once again for your awesome comment, it really means to me :)

michaelchamu profile image
Michael Bosomefi Chamunorwa

Thank you for this article.🙂
Sometimes, we often behave in a certain manner because we cannot see how flawed our behaviors are. I know that there are times I have played the blame game for one reason or the other and felt it was justified, which is/was not the right way to go about it. I have been unlearning this and your article just strengthened my resolve to be better :D
Thanks Again!😁

damnjan profile image
Damnjan Jovanovic

Hi Michael, thank you very much for positive and enciuraging words :)
I’m so happy to realize that people recognized a value in this 5 steps.

bootcode profile image
Robin Palotai

I wrote

... it is guaranteed to run into issues even with the best kind of dependencies as well. Then we can shrug and wait for them to triage, identify, prioritize, fix and release the bug. Or we can roll up our sleeves, dive in and fix it.

in my article Help! I'm blocked by other people's bugs!. If you want to be efficient, have to dive deep. For that, you often need to learn. But it's worth it.

damnjan profile image
Damnjan Jovanovic

I just read your post :) it is awesome 👌
I like these sentences particularly:

First, using that dependency was a choice.

and this one

Don't let yourself be blocked. Open bugs. But keep making progress.

cyberguest profile image

I want to see management using this as a factor for merit increase.