What to do when you feel blamed by your manager

A friend just called me, very upset. She told me that something went wrong at work, and that it was not her fault, but that her boss seemed to be blaming her for it. Here are the suggestions I gave:

1) Clear the emotional blockage

Whenever you feel an unpleasant emotion, it is a sign that what is currently happening is triggering an unresolved event in the past. As long as that is not dealt with, any subsequent actions will not be fully appropriate and adaptive for the current situation. A powerful and rapid way to achieve desensitization is emotional freedom techniques.

2) Find the positive (accept the promotion)

Once there is no emotional charge associated with a memory, thought, or situation, then you are free to frame it however you wish. A manager blaming you for something that you were not responsible for can be seen as an implicit sign of trust and of expectation of a greater level of responsibility. If you step into that responsibility going forward, then you are essentially giving yourself a promotion. Increased money and other benefits will follow the level of responsibility that you are promoted to.

3) Solve the problem

You may as well step back and work out how you can take on this new responsibility. Is there some way that you could easily prevent the problem from occurring in the future? Perhaps you need to manage sideways, or perhaps you need to put some new systems in place.

4) Manage the relationship

The final thing to do is to talk with your manager about the problem. You will need to tailor the approach to the individual. For example, if the manager’s personality style is enneagram type eight, then it may not be a good idea to apologize. You may, however, want to clarify what happened.

It’s most important that you work to get your needs met in the long run. To do this, you need to manage up. The more you learn to manage up, the more skilled you will be in managing down and sideways, because managing up is the hardest.

For example, if the effect of the way your manager spoke to you seemed to be demotivating to you, then you are serving the interests of both you and your manager by telling him or her: “You probably didn’t intend this, but I think it’s important that you should know that I imagined that you were blaming me, and that made me feel demotivated.” The form is “I imagined X” and therefore “I felt Y.” There’s no retaliatory attack, nor judgement about his or her tone of voice or behavior. There is only powerfully vulnerable sharing of your inner process.

Clear your energy blockages

I’m going to give you a simple model for how to think about mental health. This might not be really how things are, but I’ve found it to be a useful model. In my article on energy psychology, I explained how traditional chinese medicine (TCM) posits that heath and wellbeing result from a free and balanced flow of energy. In this article, I want to explain a little more about how energy blockages operate and how they affect your mental state. Keep in mind that all of this could also be explained in terms of neurophysiology, and I will probably do that at some point in the future. So let’s begin, and I will make it brief.

When you’re feeling any kind of negative emotion, if you pay attention you will notice that it is connected to a physical sensation somewhere in your body. Often the sensation is somewhere along your spine, in the middle of your body, either in your torso or in your head. People who practice yoga would think of this as being a feeling in one of the chakras.

The unpleasant sensation associated with the negative emotion is caused by a blockage of  life energy in one or more of the energy channels, the channels called meridians in TCM. Blockages occur when we stop the energy flowing. This happens when we experience something overwhelming and we don’t think we can handle it; we hold our breath, we tense our body, we dissociate or disconnect from awareness of our body. The amount of energy needed to handle an intense situation is very high and the energy is intended to enable us to handle the situation effectively. These situations tend to occur when we are children and our threshold for feeling scared, overwhelmed, or unsafe is low; being teased, pushed, or ignored, let alone abused and neglected by a parent, can cause blockages. One client had severe relationship issues that were rooted in seeing the boy she liked when she was five-years-old kissing another girl. Stressful or traumatic situations can result in blockages if an adult is overwhelmed and does not allow the energy to flow through. A relationship breakup or a close scrape with death are examples.

Once there is a blockage, it usually appears to go dormant. While it reduces the overall flow of energy in the meridian slightly, the blockage does not seem significant because that part of the meridian is not being used. However, when a situation arises that is similar to the one when the blockage occurred, the blockage again becomes significant, resulting in unpleasant feelings. Because of the unpleasant feelings, we tend to resist the situation, and the flow of energy that is trying to help us handle the situation. In fact, it is the blockage that is resisting the flow of energy and therefore the situation. More energy collects at the blockage, and the blockage increases in size. Sometimes the blockages become so large that normal functioning is no longer possible, as in severe depression, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Because we want to be fully alive, feel the flow of all our energy, and move though life with complete freedom, we tend to unconsciously create situations that activate the blockages, so that we can then clear them. The life energy flowing through us is trying to clear out the blockages so that we can be free.

There are many different ways of clearing the blockages, various different therapies and interventions. One of the most powerful and direct approaches that I have found is emotional freedom techniques (EFT), which I showed you how to use in a recent article.

The less energy blockages you have, the more life energy can flow through your body so that you can adaptively respond to what is happening in any moment. With the blockages, you react and resist life, feeling negative emotions and unpleasant body sensations. Without the blockages, there are only positive emotions and pleasant body sensations. Where once you may have felt anger, fear, frustration, jealousy, and embarrassment, now you feel peace, calm, excitement, enthusiasm, empowerment, inspiration, and generosity.