Keep the Right People On the Bus — Not Under It

I’ve only had it happen a time or two in my career.

It hurt.

A lot.

It made me want to look for another job. I remember feeling a myriad of emotions—shock, anger, and disappointment.

What could invoke so much anxiety you might ask? It’s called, “Getting thrown under the bus.”

According to, “One is thrown under the bus when they are made the scapegoat or blamed for something that wasn’t their responsibility in the first place. A cover-up for your mistake.”

If you manage people, it is very important that you do not throw employees under the bus or allow it to happen within the culture of your team. Here are some tips to you help you avoid this demoralizing behavior:

  • Seek to understand before you react: The first time I was thrown under the bus, my manager said to a customer, “Well, he’s young, so I will talk to him and get it straightened out.” What my manager failed to discern was that the person to whom he was speaking was lying. Instead of agreeing with the complainer, a healthy response would have been, “I appreciate the information. Please allow me to discuss this with my employee, and I will follow up with you as soon as possible.” I would have respected that response. I had no respect for the response that was given.
  • Focus on facts – not emotions: When emotions are running high, it is not always easy to be rational. If you are angry, do not lash out. Instead, take some time to cool down. Then, begin gathering facts that are based on behavior and outcome, not attitudes and intentions. Once you have calmed down, invite the employee into your office to discuss the facts and see if you can determine what you are dealing with versus what you are feeling.
  • Put your employees first: If an event, criticism, missed deadline, etc., causes you anxiety, do not take it out on your employees. Most external customers will be honest in their dealings with you, but some will be dishonest. They will do whatever it takes to cover their tracks—including making it look like someone from your organization is to blame. If that happens, always give your employees the benefit of the doubt. Putting your employees first increases the likelihood that they will offer the same courtesy to you.

Have any pieces of advice to add to this discussion? List them below. We promise to not throw you under the bus for sharing!

Greg Anderson
Written by:
Greg Anderson
President of Online Learning, Strategic Government Resources
Follow Greg on Twitter!@SGRGreg

2 responses

  1. Just the TITLE speaks volumes!! I couldn’t agree with you more. I still have tire tracks on my back from a previous employer. It really is about empowering rather than annihilating our resources. Thank you!

    1. It sure is, Enna! And don’t worry – the tire tracks will fade with time.

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