Being suddenly thrown under the proverbial bus is one of the worst feelings there is in a working relationship. It’s the sense of being betrayed by someone that you likely had some level of trust built with for their own gain. Perhaps you were blamed for something that you didn’t do, or they broke your confidence to share sensitive info, or perhaps they embarrassed you in front of others to make themselves look better. Whatever the reason, you’ve likely experienced it a time or two or you will most certainly experience it as you continue your professional journey.
You’ve been thrown under the bus, now what?
The thing about being thrown under the bus is that it always comes unexpectedly and suddenly. Perhaps you align with your work partner only for them to say that they totally disagree with your position after reading the room. That initial sting can send you swirling in many different mental directions at one time.
In the moment:
- Let your EQ save you: This is another great work example where a strong EQ (EQ series starting at Ep 145) will swoop in and save you from any further damage. Do your best to instantly react, especially in a public setting. Let the emotions wash through you and then begin to react in a way that reflects well on you. In some situations, you may only have a few seconds while other times, you’ll have more than enough time.
- Save face by taking the high road. It’s ok to say that whatever the other person said or did was a surprise to you and that you need some time to process and reflect. Offering the take the conversation offline in a meeting environment can take the heat off for now and keep the meeting moving forward as well.
After the incident:
- Accept that this has happened and move forward: It can be hard to obsess about the incident… besides, you’ve likely been wronged and it can feel very personal as you continue to unpack in your mind how everything unfolded. At the end of the day, there is nothing that can be done to take the incident back. It happened. Mentally acknowledge that it happened, remind yourself that it does not lower the value that you see in yourself as a person, and begin to move to the next steps for closure and growth.
- Get to the truth and root of the incident: Instead, of trying to find solace and validation with others, approach the other person who threw you under the bus after the incident and ask what happened. It’s fair for you to seek clarity and understanding of the reasoning behind their decision. Be mentally prepared because this conversation can go many different ways:
- They may reveal their true colors and were never an ally to begin with
- They may have acted impulsively and are regretful
- They may not have the self-awareness to even realize what they did was wrong and hurtful
- Don’t retaliate: It may be tempting to volley back resentment and anger or even worse, plot your revenge against the other person. Remember your values (EP 357 EP 358) and avoid this at all costs. You’ll have more productive ways to deal with the person based on the things that you learned from the experience.
Learn and grow from the experience
The shock of a break in trust can be difficult to overcome, in fact, it’s one of our highest searched subjects on the internet. Trust is certainly one of the lessons that I learn during the times that someone has thrown me under the bus – specifically how far my trust can go with the other person going forward. I would rarely fully write the person off, but I certainly reframed the relationship and became much more mindful of what I said or did around the person.
I’ve had others share with me that the lesson that they learned is that they trusted others too much. While I get where the person is coming from with this kind of statement, my experience has shown me that that kind of attitude and become the building block to a fundamental change in their leadership behavior in a negative way. You can’t stop trusting others because you’ve been burned.
Another way to gain insight from being thrown under the bus is to reflect back and understand some of the behaviors that may have been indicators that the person was capable of what they did. Some of those include:
- Trying to take credit for things that they did not do
- A lack of reciprocating information about themselves
- A lack of showing vulnerability in their role
- Statements like “It’s not personal”
Being thrown under the bus is never fun and can really hurt, especially if it comes from a friend or close colleague. Represent yourself well during the stinging moment, seek clarity, learn from the incident and move forward. You’ll build a character trait that will serve you well as you continue on your professional journey.
Make a better tomorrow.