By Linnda Durre, Ph.D., Author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace – Protect Yourself Against Co-workers Bosses and Work Environments That Poison Your Day published by McGraw Hill, February 19, 2010.
As a business and corporate consultant and psychotherapist, I’ve analyzed, worked with, and consulted with many difficult bosses over the years. In order to cope and deal with them, you need to know why they act the way they do and how best to deal with them, in order to earn their respect, get things accomplished, change negative situations to positive ones, and preserve your sanity.
In my column, I will help you cope with a different type of boss, whether male or female. And remember – all of these toxic bosses in all of my columns can be of either gender. Toxicity does not discriminate according to the sexes. The previous ones include: Dick the Dictator, Bashia the Backstabber, Sewell the Sexual Harasser, Carl the Control Freak, Paula the Passive Aggressive, Clayton the Clueless, Greta the Gossip, Susie the Sugar Coater, Ian the Idea Stealer, Al the Alcoholic, Nancy the Narcissist, Donald the Deal Maker, Vernon the Verbal Attacker, Bobby the Boss’s Relative, Cynthia the Silent Treatment Torturer, Phil the Philanderer, Ned the Negligent, Sal the Slave Driver, Porter the Political Soap Boxer, Michael the Micromanager, Wade the One Upper, Betty the Battle Axe, Phoebe the Phony, Peter the Pig, Bill the Big Picture Boss, Dan the Detail Boss, Ellery the Yeller, and Sandy the Snob.
This week it is Blaine the Blamer. Needless to say, a blamer can be a male or female, so if your boss is a female blamer, just change the pronoun.
Blaine the Blamer feels powerless and ineffectual, and he has to blame others for his own mistakes. Blaming is the lack of taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Blaine as a boss makes everyone else responsible for his own behavior.
Blaming is always looking for “the fall guy” and Blaine will look for someone in the department to dump on.
Blaine wants to make someone wrong rather than find a solution. He is usually a frightened person, seeking approval from higher ups, and not having much of a backbone, so that is why he looks for someone to blame.
When Blaine finds a scapegoat, he will either keep that person around as his own personal dumping ground or he’ll fire that person and find another scapegoat, and the pattern will repeat – blame them and then fire them. He can go through scores of people in this manner.
Blaine looks for anyone to accuse when something goes wrong. He never looks at himself as an ineffectual leader. Blaine isn’t a good leader because he won’t take a stand for what’s right. He doesn’t inspire confidence, he doesn’t back up his employees, and he does not build a coherent team spirit. His employees don’t trust him, rely on him, respect him, or look up to him. They know he won’t be there for them.
A good leader has an attitude of “The buck stops here” – they take responsibility for what goes on in their department or division. They focus on the correction of a problem in an efficient and quick acting manner. They find out exactly what’s wrong and they get their team together to correct it. A good leader will contact higher ups, make apologies, and do whatever it takes to make sure the mistake won’t happen again.
Blaine wants to project the image that his employees are incompetent idiots whom he can’t control. Blaine wants sympathy and mostly he doesn’t feel he has the authority or even the personal power to make the negative situation any different.
Paranoia is a normal reaction to working for Blaine – an employee usually has a high degree of anxiety and perpetual vigilance in waiting to be under Blaine’s electron microscope of blame, and that energy is wasted when it could be put to productive use in doing one’s job. As a result, Blaine’s department usually can be behind schedule, have difficulty concentrating and meeting deadlines, and be disorganized.
Frankly, most blamers don’t become bosses because they appear and usually are ineffectual, lazy, and powerless. Yet many do achieve positions of authority because they are the boss’s relative or are appointed temporarily and then remain in the position, or just are following “The Peter Principle” – when someone rises to their highest level of incompetence. It’s sad that you have to be subjected to his negativity.
Blaine’s childhood could be described by several possible scenarios – he may have had very controlling parents – telling him what to do and controlling him all his life and he may have been blamed for everything that went wrong. And now he has an aversion to take the blame again, so he finds a replacement. Another scenario is that he may have had parents who were negligent and then might have exploded when something went wrong, so Blaine became a blamer at an early age to younger or even older siblings, and he has just continued the pattern into adulthood.
Let’s look at the explanation for why you’re in this unfortunate situation of being Blaine’s scapegoat. Be brutally honest and introspective when looking at your life and your patterns. Ask yourself – why you are there, how you ended up there, and make a plan to get out of that spot. Continue asking the tough questions – did I have parents who always blamed me? Am I just recreating my childhood pattern with Blaine? Am I am an emotional masochist and I like to be put upon, pressured, and verbally abused? Do I really like being a martyr? What are the answers?
Recognize that you need to stop this dysfunctional pattern immediately. Go to EAP for free psychotherapy sessions, and/or take advantage of your insurance provisions for private psychotherapy with an approved provider. Get some insight into your childhood and your life and change the toxic pattern.
There are several solutions for you to take:
1) You can confront Blaine yourself and the most important and effective communication tool with Blaine is “the process shot,” which I describe in Part II of my book. You need to give him feedback on what he does to you and to the others in the department. Describe exactly what he does, how he does it, how it feels to you, and how you would like him to change that behavior. Encourage him to seek help, take action, and change his dysfunctional patterns.
Warn him that you won’t be caught in him trap and him “blame game.” Tell him that he needs to take responsibility for his own behavior and problems and to take action to correct the negative situation in his department. Formulate your speech directly for him and have it suited for the specifics of the situation. It should sound something like this:
“Blaine, I like you as a person and I like my job. Here’s what doesn’t work for me. I feel you always look for someone to blame and I’ve noticed over the months (or years) I’ve been working here, that you do that. You’ve also fired people that you make the ‘fall guy’ and that’s sad. Lately it’s been me that you blame. I’m not the one responsible, and you keep making me your scapegoat. Please stop it. I won’t stand for being blamed for something I didn’t do.
However, if I do something wrong, please tell me. If it’s my mistake, I’ll take responsibility for it and I’ll correct it. Please tell me how you want it and I’ll do it if I feel that it is correct and warranted. But don’t blame me for what goes wrong.
This negative environment in the office may be due to your uninspiring leadership, Blaine. I always have to be watching you constantly over my shoulder, and how you are setting me up. That wastes a lot of my time. It interferes with my productivity at work and it lowers the morale and efficiency in the office.
You’re always complaining that everything’s wrong. You constantly play ‘poor me’ and blame circumstances and other people for your woes. You must feel like you don’t have the power to change anything, which is simply untrue. You can take effective action and do something about your own problems in how you create this in the first place.
Have a discussion with your own boss and even your boss’s boss about what needs improvement in the office. I would also recommend that you utilize the free psychotherapy sessions offered by EAP and/or find an approved provider on our insurance plan and go to someone for psychotherapy sessions. Discover what causes you to act like this and learn how to stop it. Take charge of your life and your job and make the changes that will stop you from always blaming others. Let’s see how you can do that! I like my job and I want to continue working here.”
2) If that doesn’t work, then go to Blaine’s boss and/or HR and tell them about the pattern. Ask them to intervene. You may even request a conference with all of you present. If you have others in the department that feel the same way as you do, ask them to come to the meeting. There is strength in numbers.
3) You can ask for a transfer away from Blaine into another department or work for another boss. But remember, you will take that dysfunctional pattern with you if you don’t stop it beforehand.
4) If nothing helps and nothing changes, you may have to quit and get a job with another company.
Whatever you do, get it resolved. I hope these tips will help you in dealing with Blaine the Blamer.
—Linnda Durré, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, business consultant, corporate trainer, international speaker, and columnist. She has hosted and co-produced two live call-in TV shows, including “Ask The Family Therapist” on America’s Health Network, which was associated with Mayo Clinic and aired from Universal Orlando. She is the author of “Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against Co-Workers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day” (2010 – McGraw-Hill). The book’s website is: www.survivingthetoxicworkplace.com Her book interviews include Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Investors Business Daily, Inc Magazine, Monster, AOL, Yahoo, and others.
She has been interviewed on Oprah, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Daytime, Good Morning America, Canada AM, and The O’Reilly Factor (twice), and the national and/or local news on ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, Fox and CW. She has written for Forbes, CareerBuilder, Monster, A&U Magazine, Orlando Business Journal, and American Cities Business Journals. For more information about her consulting or speaking, contact her at Linnda.Durre@gmail.com and 407-739-8620 or 323-333-1393.