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.