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Did you get the license plate of that bus?

One of the things I absolutely despise is when managers throw their staff under the proverbial bus. I find it to be an (almost) unforgivable act because it erodes at the very fabric of the manager/employee relationship. I have blogged many times about the importance of trust in the employer/employee relationship, well anytime you commit this act as a manager you have essentially gotten rid of any and all trust that was previously built up.

So what exactly am I getting at when I refer to managers throwing their staff under the bus? I am referring to those times when a manager, instead of acting as a leader and taking accountability for the outcomes and actions of their team, chooses to single out one of their employees as being culpable for having not performed or done something that they were supposed to. They focus on one of their employees as being the reason for a particular problem.  This usually occurs during discussions between the manager and their boss. The manager, in attempting to deflect any type of blame or accountability, chooses to make the issue being about their staff and not themselves.

imageFor example, consider the following situation:  the VP’s of each functional department or geography in a company are responsible for making sure that their leadership teams all have comprehensive development plans in place each year so as to foster succession management activities. This would mean that the VP’s need to make sure their Directors have plans in place for their Managers. When the President of the company brings her/his senior team together to discuss the plans, it becomes obvious that one of the VP’s Directors did NOT work with their Managers to have these plans in place. When asked why/how this occurred, the VP indicates that it is the Director’s fault because they didn’t take the time and effort to put this in place.  They provide assurances that they will ‘deal’ with this Director upon their return to the office.  Bam! Right under the bus!

Essentially, this VP made a clear choice to blame their subordinate and deflect all accountability from themselves. Unfortunately, this scenario plays out far too often in many organizations. The bottom line is this, as a manager you are responsible for what your staff does and how they perform. As a manager, you are ACCOUNTABLE for your staff and their performance. Organizations with effective leadership teams hold their managers accountable for their actions. In the above scenario, that VP would have been held accountable for not meeting the performance expectation of having all development plans in place, regardless of what the Director did or did not do. That VP was accountable for a deliverable. If it was in jeopardy, they needed to address this with the Director and address the situation before the deadline was in jeopardy.  Bottom line – they are accountable.

You see this issue of staff getting thrown under the bus a lot in organizations where there is an overall lack of accountability. Managers are allowed to blame staff for mistakes and for deliverables not being met. Excuses are accepted and no one is accountable. The manager, in effect, gets away with being a poor manager and is able to deflect the accountability and responsibility away from themselves – it is always someone else’s fault. As indicated, this is rampant in organizations that have no accountability as part of their organizational DNA. They are also the same companies that have attraction, retention and engagement issues and then wonder why these problems exist!

So as managers, leaders and/or HR Pros, we need to figure what our organizations stand for. If we believe in holding managers accountable, than we will not accept it when managers throw their staff under the bus. We will hold our leaders and managers accountable for their actions.  As HR Pros, will drive the creation of and support this type of organizational culture. Excuses won’t be accepted and blame will not be assigned. All that matters is the accountability for team performance and outcomes. Managers who support their teams and accept the responsibility and accountability for leading them are the ones who foster environments built on trust. They are the ones who have actively engaged employees. They are the ones who aren’t dealing with turnover in their departments because they are true leaders and they have the respect of their staff.

What about you? Do you have a problem with managers throwing staff under the bus in your organizations? How do/did you deal with it? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Rawich/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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