Okay, A coaching client of mine started a recent December session with “A so called teammate has thrown me under the bus! GRRRR!! Let’s talk about an attack plan.”

What was my advice?

Don’t attack,strategize. After you take a walk to clear your thoughts, schedule some time for the two of you to chat. If you really want to move on from being thrown under the bus, there are two painful truths you’ll face. For starters, you’re bound to have a really uncomfortable conversation with your co-worker. And more importantly, you need to remember that even the nicest tone could make that person feel like you’re attacking them.

Unless that person knows to expect a tough conversation in advance reach out to them and ask if they have a few minutes to chat later that day about the earlier meeting (or wherever it was that the issue took place—be it in person or over email).

The next week, she was still fuming in our session. So we ended up deciding together that unless she is dealing with the most self-involved person ever, chances are they know what she wants to talk about—and are likey amenable to clearing the air.

Her final plan was to avoid starting the conversation by assuming the worst. She could easily start a conversation with this person by saying, “You made me look bad in front of everyone and I hope you get fired for it.” Because she realized, if she did, she’d probably end up in a screaming match that results in neither she nor the “thrower” feeling great about anything. So when their conversation rolled around, she try to assume the best, at least at the beginning.

There’s no guarantee this approach will work, but it will absolutely be a much more productive conversation than if you played the “blame game”.

When you sit down with your teammate, make it your goal is to put things in terms of how they made you feel, rather than what you noticed he or she did. Try statements like, “I felt like my work was being diminished because of the way you communicated my role in our project” or “I felt like the scapegoat when you blamed me in the meeting for the design delay.” For most people, hearing how their actions affected you is much more powerful than being reprimanded.
Think about it: The former puts them in your shoes and the latter puts them on the defensive.

It’s never fun to get thrown under the bus at work. But when it happens to you, don’t jump to conclusions. There’s a decent chance that colleague of yours didn’t mean for it to happen that way. That is what my client found out when she met privately with her “thrower”. And even if it was malicious, you’ll feel much better about the entire situation if you confront it head on. Odds are the person’s less likely to do it again if it means having a grown-up conversation about it. If it was malicious, stand your ground mentally and physically with this untrustworthy teammate. Ask them what was in it for them. Then end with I understand you much better now. It was good we met.

So have you thrown a colleague under the bus? What was your motivation? How did it work out for you? Let me know.

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