Break room, 10:00 a.m. You’re complaining about your boss. You rant to your head-nodding-I-get-ya co-worker about your boss’s latest tirade: blaming you because you were unable to dig up the info he was looking for. The boss doesn’t want to hear about the software crash that prevented anyone from finding anything.
Your co-worker listens sympathetically, and launches into her own “Our boss is the devil” story.
And on it goes. All through the day, no matter what time you hit the break room, someone is angsting or raging about the bad boss’s behavior.
Which is perfectly natural, make no mistake about it. Getting frustrated, depressed or just plain angry about yet another unwarranted outburst from your bad boss is the human thing to do. After all, it is demeaning, disgusting and at the very least, disrespectful. However, wallowing in your misery prevents you from pushing through to the very success you long for.
Here’s an easy three-step process to get off the blame game (oh, you didn’t notice you were blaming your boss for blaming you?) and on to your own success:
1. Make like a duck
Let your blaming boss’s rant slide right off you–water off a duck’s back. Because the rant isn’t important, it’s just your boss’s frustration inappropriately blasting in your direction. Don’t let it impact you in any way. It’s his garbage, not yours.
2. Listen up
Somewhere in that rant, is the information you need to solve whatever the issue is. Regardless of whose fault it is or isn’t, there’s something that went awry that needs to be fixed. Listen for what that is, for any clue on how to fix it, and ignore everything else.
3. Fix it
No this is not the Impossible Quest, your boss’s problem can be addressed, even if only partially, by you. Any genuine attempt you make to solve his problem makes you valuable to your boss—such as actually figuring out how to dig up that information he was so hot-under-the-collar about. You become a problem-solver rather than a problem-maker.
What about before the blame hits? Is there anything you can do to stave off a blame blast before it begins?
Yes, there is.
Let’s say your boss says he wants you to put together a chart for an upcoming project, and specifies he wants the numbers for the last five years included. Whip out your handy iPad or old-school notepad, and quickly take notes in front of the boss of what he just requested. Since most bad bosses are paranoid, he’ll probably ask, in that nasty tone of voice, “what you are doing?” Wearing your best neutral face, calmly, tell him you just want to make sure you get things done the way he wants. You can even show him your notes.
Why bother? Because when you put together that chart per his instructions and he then fingers you as incompetent for including five-year-old data, you can refer to the very notes he watched you take, and–neutrally, once again, say–“These were your instructions on May 5. What changes would you like at this time?” Then write down those changes in front of him.
As long as you accomplish this without implying that your boss is wrong, and accept the changes without balking, you implicitly let your boss know that you are doing a fine job, that berating you isn’t going to get him anywhere, and you’re actually on his side, willing to go with his flow. His attitude toward you may not change at once, but if you are consistent with such an approach, chances are good that over time, he will regard you as a valuable ally.
What do companies need more than anything? Employees who can solve problems. Rather than resenting your finger pointing, blame-throwing boss, put your energy and smarts into solving his problems, and watch yourself rise–both in his estimation, and into the career success you deserve.
– Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D. is a psychologist, business trial consultant and the author of 12 books, including her latest, Got a Bad Boss? Work That Boss to Get What You Want at Work, and Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy.