Blamed For Boss’ Mistakes

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss who blames a subordinate for her mistakes.

What can I do if my boss constantly blames me for her mess up? It happens 2-3 times a week. I pull orders relying on what she writes on the ticket. When I confront her about it, she gets defensive and unable to communicate without yelling and threatening my job. She even went as far as taking away my job as a Warehouse manager to a warehouse worker. What can I do about this? I cannot afford to quit!

Signed, Can’t Afford To Quit

Dear┬áCan’t Afford To Quit:

From what you say about you boss “taking away my job”, you mean you were demoted, and I assume that means less pay. This must have been a bad day for you. Did she give a reason? Had you failed in some serious way? You say she blames you for her mistakes 2-3 times a week. And when you have confronted her about her mistakes, she yells and threatens to fire you. You would like to get away for your boss, but you can’t afford to quit.

Soooo working scared of your boss, I expect that you walk on eggs.You first ask what can you do about your boss blaming you for her mistakes, yelling and threatening to fire you. Your options are limited to: requesting a meeting with your boss to talk about her rationale and learning if you can work through ways for her and/or you not making mistakes. Ideally that is what both of you should do. Mistakes often are caused by problems in the system; orders are not written or communicated clearly, made when there were distractions or given when multitasking, etc. Problem solving is a better approach than either you blaming her or she you.

Placing blame causes the one blamed to “lose face.” Pointing out one another’s mistakes of course is necessary if they are ever to be corrected, but approaching mistakes as problems to be solved saves face. Both her and your goal is to do work efficiently and effective and that might be a matter of developing steps, rule, and procedures to cut down and eliminate those mistakes regardless of who ever makes them. Toward the end of describing the trouble with your boss, you asked: What can you do about being demoted from Warehouse Manager to worker? Probably not much unless you have a union. You don’t say how long ago this occurred. How long had you been in this position? Had you bad performance evaluations? I have the feeling that it is old business that you have not gotten over. I also sense that you carry a grudge about this and wish your boss would drop dead. However, in large organizations, rarely are demotions made by a boss without making the case for that to their own boss or to Human Resources.

If this happened recently, about all you can do is meet with you boss for an eye-to-eye talk about why and how you might regain her confidence. You might approach her with the thought in mind of making her job easier and doing all possible on your part to make her look good. Or you can tell her that you will fight her by going above her head to those above and there list the things she does wrong. That might work if you have the support of coworkers who also feel mistreated and bullied by her.

To sum up, you can bite your tongue or you can find a way to better your working relationship. Biting your tongue has much in its favor. Why? Because it stops you from mumbling to your self “she’s wrong and out to get me.” It stops you from gossiping to others about your bad boss. It steels you to the fact that your boss has a short fuse and a habit of blaming others. So you learn to live with it. Finding a way to better your working relationship will require asking for a time-out talk with your boss. And that meeting will go best if you have a positive, supportive attitude rather than a confrontational “you done me wrong” mindset.

Doing good work, being a cheerleader of others, not gossiping and complaining, and having the courage to talk about how you talk to each other earn getting cooperation.Let me know if this makes sense. After a couple of weeks, tell us what you have chosen to do and if it works. Working together (with a boss) with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is what you want.

William Gorden