Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don't throw other people under the bus

I do not understand why individuals in work environments feel the need to throw other people under the bus to CYA ("Cover Your Ass").  This action both pisses off the innocent party as well as creates bad blood that will come to bite them in the ass later on in life.  There's also a finite amount of individuals one can throw under the bus -- when the time comes where he/she have no one else to blame, there will be some drama.

I've seen this happen many times during my career, and many times the individuals I have seen who are guilty of this tend to be significantly older.  This goes into my other theory of just because someone is older it does not mean they know better and/or are more mature. 

Ironically, this also plays into the culture of the work environment that is cultivated.  I have noticed this much more with larger, established, "blue chip" companies and individuals who have spent a significant amount of their career there.  The correlation between the two is not lost.  The larger a company becomes, the more likely an under performer is able to "hide" within the organization.  Because many individuals, across-verticals, are responsible for a deliverable in a larger blue chip firm (everyone has a piece of the pie), it is hard to pinpoint the overachievers and under performers. Especially with seniority, these individuals have the ability to toss less senior individuals under the bus as sacrifice for their own job security.  On the reverse, they also actively take credit for ideals and accomplishments that they themselves did not create.

I wasn't the best employee at my last position by any stretch of my imagination but I worked as hard as I can.  An individual like what I described above ended up being relocated from Minnesota to become one of my direct managers about two years into my career at Medtronic.  This individual blamed everything on myself as well as other direct reports to him.  Eventually, most of us left for greener pastures.  Several years later I overheard that this individual ran out of people to blame and eventually got let go because of his poor performance. 

I have experience the same type of individuals in my current position as well.  Although I don't work for a start up, the company is still relatively small compared to my previous work experience.  There is a distinct difference in the culture.  Individuals who like to throw others under the bus and take credit for accomplishments they did not generate tends to be weeded out very quickly.  Because of the performance culture of a small firm, and the size of the firm, there isn't a lot of areas an under performer can hide.  Coworkers and management also very easily see through the stories and lies that these under performers tell to take credit where it is not deserved or blame their shortcomings on others.  There is also significantly more accountability for an individuals work because unlike a larger company, usually there are not multiple people responsible for the deliverable.

No matter where you work, you cannot avoid office politics.  My advice would be to understand the office politics at your company and utilize that knowledge to get things accomplished and done for the good of the firm.  This really is a small world.  Do not throw anyone under the bus or it may come back to bite you later on.  Be upfront and take responsibility.  As long as it is not a pattern of mistakes, management will understand, and your colleagues will respect you for that.

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