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.

Buddha kept it simple

Buddha was not a Buddhist. He was someone who realized how much he, and the rest of humanity, suffered; and he decided to figure out a solution. Buddha discovered, or perhaps rediscovered, insight meditation, and used it to free himself permanently from suffering. Insight meditation, also called Vipassanā, meaning insight into reality, is a very simple form of meditation in which you pay attention to the sensations on and inside your body, from moment to moment and with equanimity. Equanimity is when you don’t push something away or crave more of it; you just let it be as it is.

Everything that you perceive through your senses causes some kind of sensation to occur in your body. Some perceptions result in pleasant sensations and other perceptions result in unpleasant sensations. At the deepest level of your unconscious mind, you are continually paying attention to the sensations, grasping at the pleasant ones, and their associated experiences, and resisting the unpleasant ones, and their associated experiences. This is suffering: unconsciously reacting with craving and aversion to stimulii. When you start practicing Vipassanā, you start to realize the extent and depth of this suffering. It is continual and all-pervading.

By consciously scanning your body for subtler and subtler sensations, and consciously being equanimous with them, you can retrain your unconscious mind at the deepest level to not react with craving or aversion, to stop suffering. When equanimity is fully habitual, there is no more reactivity, and no more suffering.

The sensations that arise in reaction to perceptions are energetic echoes from the past, from when a past situation was reacted to; they are impurities in the mind that cloud perception of reality. When these sensations are allowed to arise, and are not reacted to, they can pass away naturally. When you unconsciously react, you maintain these impurities, and lay down more of them.

With regular practice of Vipassanā, not only do you get increasingly skilled at being equanimous and non-reactive, which becomes unconscious and automatic, but you also purify your mind so there is less to react to. External situations still arise, but the perception of them results in increasingly less intense internal sensations. You become less disturbed by life, less reactive, and your suffering begins to end.

While there are now so many complex forms of Buddhism, with intricate rituals and practices, Buddha wanted to keep it simple, to teach this simple technique to end suffering. It’s best to learn Vipassanā in an intensive retreat, where you can really see the benefits and establish your practice. I highly recommend the ten-day meditation retreats taught around the world by S. N. Goenka, where food and lodging is free to you, paid for by past students. These retreats are one of the best ways you could use your time, and will significantly change your life for the better.