Degradation of organic materials is responsible for the short operation lifetimes of organic light-emitting devices, but the mechanism by which such degradation is initiated has yet to be fully established. Here we report a new mechanism for degradation of emitting layers in blue-phosphorescent devices. We investigate binary mixtures of a wide bandgap host and a series of novel Ir(III) complex dopants having N-heterocyclocarbenic ligands. Our mechanistic study reveals the charge-neutral generation of polaron pairs (radical ion pairs) by electron transfer from the dopant to host excitons. Annihilation of the radical ion pair occurs by charge recombination, with such annihilation competing with bond scission. Device lifetime correlates linearly with the rate constant for the annihilation of the radical ion pair. Our findings demonstrate the importance of controlling exciton-induced electron transfer, and provide novel strategies to design materials for long-lifetime blue electrophosphorescence devices.