Money & Career

Getting Thrown Under The Bus: How To Bounce Back

We’ve all been there. A colleague (or worse, manager!) blames you publicly- VERY publicly- for an error. It’s never fun, and dealing with the aftermath isn’t fun either. 

What Getting Thrown Under The Bus Looks Like

Getting thrown under the bus is just an easy way for someone else to avoid blame. When a manager or team member does it, they’re acknowledging the error but moving ownership of the error to you, instead of accepting it for the team. It’s not a positive experience and reduces the trust that others hold in you within the organization.

  • Example of acknowledgment with ownership: “We could have made that email better. Next time the team will do a better job of proofreading it.”
  • Example of acknowledgment without ownership: “The email could have been better, and Sarah was the one who sent it.”

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold yourself accountable for the mistake. Discuss it with the team privately, take personal ownership of the error, and move on. This is a respectable, professional move that you want to learn from the situation. Remain honest about the situation, what happened, and how you plan to correct it in the future.

Also, develop a workplace 30,000+ foot view. Taking a step back to reevaluate the situation will help you to see it clearer and even communicate what you think (and emphasis on the think) could have happened. Not to throw anyone else under the bus, but perhaps you really weren’t at fault.

Why Do People Throw Others- Especially Women- Under The Bus

Many people operate on assumptions in the workplace, and there are many negative assumptions in the workplace about women, especially working moms.

Unfortunately, people throw women under the bus all the time at work. It’s not uncommon for coworkers to throw one another under the bus, or for a direct report to throw a colleague under the bus when reporting to their boss. It’s also not uncommon for a boss to throw a direct report under the bus when talking to their boss.

Regardless, who threw you under the bus isn’t as important as the solution you pose after it. This is the best way to turn a bad situation into a positive one and stretch your leadership skills in the process.

All in all, you won’t lose any sleep about getting thrown under the bus at work if you approach it head-on. Don’t feel defeated or worse, play office politics or engage in office gossip.

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