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Work Productivity and Hacks

The Right Way To Throw Someone Under The Bus

By Joseph Cueto on April 4, 2015

Anyone around these parts who has been thrown under the bus by a boss or a colleague?

The term “throwing someone under the bus” is generally used to describe the act of a boss or colleague attempting to deflect blame from themselves by assigning fault onto someone else. There are just some office people who, it seems, do not believe in the value of accountability. On second thought, perhaps they do believe in being accountable but only when things are going well and they make the effort to hog all the credit.

Why do such things happen?  A sought-after Filipino motivational speaker believes that what ails Filipino managers and bosses is the fear of being wrong and blamed, leading to analysis paralysis, or worse, not making a decision at all.

This article by Aha! CEO Brian de Haaff details his personal experience of, shall we say, a deviant yet constructive case of throwing employees under the bus. In the article, he recalls a situation that tested his wits, a scenario where someone from his team failed to do a crucial task, one where putting the staffer out to dry would have been justifiable.

The response (not the reaction): Ultimately, Brian made the decision to, in his own words, “lay down under the bus” with the erring team member.  Here are the steps Brian proactively took to diffuse the situation. Call it the new and improved version of throwing the person under the bus:

Explain what went wrong – Brian explained that since he was the overall project head, he should have done a better job in checking if the requirements were turned in.

Document why it happened – Brian made it a point to keep everyone abreast of the situation without resorting to the blame game. He was also in touch with the certain team member about what he, as the leader, would do.

Identify productive next steps – Brian provided various options to address the problem and outlined the pros and cons of each approach.

As Brian showed, throwing someone under the bus need not involve bloodletting, drama, and loss of goodwill and self-esteem. Everybody makes mistakes and there are better ways of letting other people feel the gravity of their actions.  Brian’s kind of throwing employees under the bus is helpful in making someone grow and learn. Ride and adapt to it.


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