Scapegoats of Change

by | Mar 15, 2019 | Change, Identity |

A few definitions to start.

A villain can be another person or can be an internal like self-doubt. The tension between the villain and the hero is what makes us continue to read on.

Scapegoats are a person, an animal, a thing made to bear the blame of others.

Guilt: I’ve done something wrong.

Shame: I am a bad person

All good stories need a villain of sorts which the hero is in tension with. In communicating about change stories are powerful. We can use the nuance of story to talk about the ‘old’ way of doing things as a villain, as bad, as evil in order to help us change. In many ways villains play a critical role, not just in keeping the reader engaged but also in developing the hero – without the villain (or tension) the character doesn’t grow or change in herself. In our organisations, the ‘old’ way has helped bring about the new or the change being implemented – this is a role we rarely acknowledge.

Although this a dangerous tactic in a change process, we can scapegoat a system or process in order to usher in a new one. This is dangerous because it tends to associate all problems with one thing and it’s almost always more complex than that, so when the old is gone but some of the problems still exist we’ve set ourselves up for another challenge.

What is more worrying is when we make villains and scapegoats out of our colleagues, when we switch from holding people accountable (you have done something wrong) to making them a scapegoat and shaming them (s/he is a bad person). Heaping our problems on a person, making the ‘other’ a scapegoat is a human tendency, but is lazy, unkind, black/white thinking and untrue.

We may see improvement in the short term, but some of the problems will remain because they are in us.


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