Been Thrown Under The Bus Lately?

Have you ever been thrown under the bus? We all have. I certainly have spent some time under the bus. I recall a time I was thrown under the bus by my team leader through an email. I cannot recall any time in my career where I have been angrier. In that moment I am sure if I had opened my mouth fire would have come out! After I read the email I immediately grab my keys, went to my car, and exhaled. Several questions raced through my mind.

  • Why would my team leader not come speak to me directly?
  • Why would my team leader not get all the details first before making this accusation?
  • Why would my team leader copy everyone?
  • Why would my team leader exaggerate the situation?

What I realized in that moment is this had nothing to do with me but everything to do with my team leader.  According to the Urban Dictionary the term “throwing someone under the bus” can be defined as:

To sacrifice some other person, usually one who is undeserving or at least vulnerable, to make personal gain.


Is there a person in your office that is a “serial thrower?” You see them roaming the hallways looking for unsuspecting pedestrians. This is the person that if someone makes a mistake or there is a hint of a problem they make sure everyone in your office knows about it. The serial thrower lays it on thick, exaggerates the story, and pushes all the right buttons. Now, I want to be clear. There is nothing wrong with identifying problems or catching mistakes. In order to get better organizations must identify problems and alleviate them. However, our serial thrower takes it to the next level. They do not go to the person that made the mistake or that can solve the problem. Determining all the facts to understand what really happened would be too easy. They are in search of the big audience. Here it comes, the email with everyone cc’ed and blind copied including the guy who was there to fix the copier earlier today. You are walking down the street enjoying the scenery….BAM!!!! You have just been thrown under of the bus. Ever experienced this?

Let’s delve into the psyche of a serial thrower. In the definition earlier we said they do this for personal gain. What is it that they have to gain? Well, they are trying to do one of two things; serial throwers are focusing attention on or away from themselves.

First, let’s deal with the person who is trying to attract attention. They want everyone to know they are looking out for the company. “I am just trying to make us better”, they say. They may indeed want the company to be better. The reason for throwing you under the bus is they need everyone to know how good they are (or at least how good they think they are). It is more about them than the company. You are just an innocent by-stander. If they truly cared about the company above themselves they would first get all the details surrounding the problem. Once the details have been collected they would go to the person(s) directly involved and look for a solution. If a solution is not found then a decision could be made on what additional team members need to be involved to solve the problem. This would do two things. First, it would ensure that someone is not cast in a bad light because the situation was misunderstood or exaggerated. Second, it would foster a culture of trust and strengthen the team.

Equally as dangerous to organizations are serial throwers looking to focus attention away from themselves. They throw others under the bus to divert attention away from their own mistakes, lack of follow-up, or miscommunication. They blame others instead of taking responsibility for their actions. These serial throwers are most likely under performers. They have an excuse for everything. It is always the other person or department’s fault.

Serial throwers erode trust and destroy team spirit. The effects are multiplied when that person is in a leadership role. A leader who is a serial thrower will never build a strong team. They will set an example that will encourage others to embrace the same behavior. Leaders should not allow their team to throw others under the bus. We all know when someone is throwing another under the bus. As the “thrower’s” team leader you should go to them directly and address the issue. Ask them if they attempted to speak to the person before sending the email. Tell them directly that the behavior is unacceptable and is not the proper way to solve issues. Speak with them about how your company’s mission statement, core values, and culture dictate how to address issues. When issues, problems, and mistakes are handled correctly it improves communications, collaborations, and team dynamics.

The next time you find yourself “under the bus” here are some tips on how to recover.

  1. Do not react in anger or get defensive. Take a breath and be the adult.
  2. Research the full scope of the problem or issue.
  3. Go speak directly in person with the “thrower” to discuss problem and agree to solution.
  4. Then respond to the email originally sent fully explaining the issue, accepting any responsibility necessary, outlining your discussion with the thrower (do not call them “the thrower”), and summarize the solution to the problem.
  5. Take pleasure in the fact that you took the high road…That is where great leaders travel!

Share this with your colleagues. If you are worried about sending this to the serial thrower on your team; send me a message and I will make sure it mysteriously shows up in their email box!!!

Let me know what you are thinking!

Comment below.

Are You A Problem Solver?

I still remember my first promotion to a manager’s role. I was promoted to Property Manager of Savannah Sound. Savannah Sound was a 120-unit apartment community in Florida. I had a team of three employees. I was extremely excited. That excitement did not last long. As soon as I was announced manager there was a line including residents, vendors, other departments, my team, and my supervisor ready to list all the problems associated with the property. It did not take me long to realized my job was to solve problems. More importantly, if I did not solve problems I would not be the manager long.

Young Businesswoman
I quickly narrowed the list down to my three biggest threats and ranked them in order of importance.

  1.  Team Morale: Previous manager was not very friendly or supportive
  2.  Low Occupancy: Occupancy percentage was in the 80’s
  3.  Missing Budget: The property was not generating the proper cash flow

You may be questioning why I ranked missing budget as my third priority. Most people would attack this first. Let me tell you why it was last on my list. Without a happy team that enjoyed working with each other there was no way we were going to be able to wow our residents and prospective renters with great customer service. If we could not make our residents happy and close on prospective renters our occupancy was not going anywhere. With low occupancy there was no possible way for me to generate cash flow. I had to solve my morale and occupancy issues first.

Along with my team, we identified solutions and formulated a plan. My team flourished and we reached our goals. I gave them all the credit for our success. My reward was my next promotion. I use this approach in every job I take on.

How others measure you as a leader will be based on your ability to solve problems for your team and organization. Over the years people have asked me how to earn promotions and further their career. My answer, simply be a better problem solver. You become extremely valuable as you improve your ability to quickly identify and lead teams to solve problems. Below is a list of six steps to solving problems.

Six Steps To Solving Problems

  1. Narrow down to the highest priority problems/threats
  2. Clearly communicate the problems and consequences to your team
  3. Brainstorm with your team for possible solutions
  4. Formulate your solutions into a plan
  5. Provide continuous follow-up and status updates
  6. Reward team for accomplishing the mission

Leadership is about identifying problems; then, coaching and inspiring others to solve them as a team. Whether you are managing a team of two or two thousand, you were hired to solve problems. If you want to increase your value within your organization and open up the doors of opportunity become an effective problem solver.

I can’t wait to hear from you! What problems are you facing? How do you solve problems? How much of your day is consumed with just solving problems? As a leader how valuable is a problem solver on your team?

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What Is The Purple Approach?

It never fails…as soon as I tell people the name of my company I know what the next question will be.

“What is The Purple Approach?”

Let me tell you a story. What would you do if you lost your ability to increase/pay salaries or promote within your organization? This happened to then General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. As you could imagine it would be very difficult to convince a group of soldiers, many volunteers, to continue to wage a war when you could not pay salaries or promote their military career. General Washington was faced with a problem only leadership could solve. The General decided to inspire them with the mission of the war, independence, and recognize them for their excellent service. So in 1782 he established The Purple Heart by writing the following:

“The General ever desirous to cherish a virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military Merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward”

US Purple Heart The Purple Approach is about leadership. It is about an organization or you as an individual rallying your team around a central goal, the mission. It is about creating a culture so magnetic that you attract and retain the best talent and customers.  My personal mission is to help others connect to the leader already within them.

Your team is looking for a leader that will inspire, coach, train, protect, and lead them. Will you be that leader?

The best talent is searching for an organization that understands the best investment they can make is in their people. Will you be that organization?