If you engage in the game of work long enough, you will most likely experience getting thrown under the bus.
It could be a person you experience a conflict with, or represent a work or personal challenge. No matter what the source is, it hurts. So we thought we might explore a few options to lessen the pain and transform what is potentially a devastating experience into a learning opportunity.
Landing under the wheels of the proverbial work bus is bone and heart crushing and most definitely leaves tread marks. It requires courage to face an oncoming bus traveling at full speed and discover the know-how to rise above it instead of landing under it.
We seek out solutions beyond yes/no or right/wrong; unique concepts that are a blend of the polarities and open the door to new possibilities. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand,” said Albert Einstein.
Here are a few recommendations to help you survive work collisions:
Acknowledge and Learn from the Experience
(Face it and choose to take no offense. View every experience as an opportunity to develop)
Respect trumps avoidance tactics, which might work for a short time, but buses are faster than people and in this scenario the bus hits you from behind. The silent hits hurt the most and often last the longest. It’s best to face work challenges “head on” (pun intended). Be aware that the bus is not actually the problem. Focus on the actions and how to resolve them and move forward.
When you view work as a game, every day you have an opportunity to learn and innovate. In football, we respect a solid frontal hit, learn from it, adjust, and get better. It is the same in work. You can learn how to perform so you’re not sacked again. Being thrown under the bus is like being sacked by your own teammate who was supposed to be protecting you. It is a betrayal, yet once acknowledged, a new game plan can be formed to move forward. It will take time. Skin won’t grow over the wound overnight. But by working together trust can be rebuilt.
The opposite of respect is anger and judgment. Angry players lose their focus and ultimately the game. It also runs precious minutes off the clock. Your time is better spent creating, developing, and achieving.
Sometimes it helps to view a problem from a new perspective. Your co-worker is providing you with feedback. Be willing to try it on. It’s like trying on a pair of pants. If they don’t fit, don’t get emotional (that is throwing yourself under the bus). Just take them off and return them properly folded with no added emotion to the original owner.
One of the most important moments in sports comes right after the clock runs out. The coaches and players re-enter the field, shake hands and demonstrate respect for one another and a game well played.
Mentally “shake hands” with anyone you are experiencing opposition with. There is no need to extend the game into unnecessary overtime by carrying negative thoughts. Negative thoughts never create positive outcomes. Because the individual plays on the same team, it is even more important to discover solutions to avoid future incidents. Sometimes just letting another person know how we feel in a non-threatening way makes all the difference.
Focus on Discovering a Win
(Commit to discovering the win by finding an opportunity to step back and examine the issue with the source that threw you under the bus)
Here’s where the game gets good and champions emerge. When you begin to plan your next project, anticipate that you will receive pushback, and address it first. Meet with the individuals you have experienced conflict with first. Listen and adjust where necessary. You decide what advice to incorporate and what not to.
Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, believed that we can learn from everyone and everything. When he lost one of his early stores because the landlord chose not to renew his building lease and turned the property over to his son, Walton said, “I had to pick myself up and get on with it, do it all over again, only even better this time.” Sam Walton faced a major professional setback because someone he trusted betrayed him, and he was still able to discover a win that would lead to his most memorable successes in business.
Whether You Win or Lose, Continue to Move Forward
(Don’t become immobilized by the experience. Extraordinary things can be discovered under the bus)
Entrepreneurs generally “suck a lot of gravel” before they discover their defining moment.
Champions understand that new ideas and game-changing concepts are not always discovered sitting safely strapped in a comfortable bus seat. For entrepreneurs, many times we discover treasure under the bus in the gravel, a place few people are willing to explore.
We were reminded of a story shared by a fellow executive whose team was studying the concepts from the popular business book Good to Great. He purchased a stuffed hedgehog (a central character in the book) to serve as the mascot for his program.
A few weeks after completing the training sessions, he arrived at work and discovered his treasured stuffed animal had been torn apart, and the pieces were super-glued to the ceiling throughout the building.
He was devastated as he related the story to us. We reminded him that the majority of his team enjoyed the training and “found their appropriate seat on the corporate bus.” The glue bandit who desecrated the hedgehog was stating that he would never be comfortable in a standard corporate bus seat.
Perhaps he was an entrepreneur who might develop great things for the team “under the bus.” Every team needs a few high-spirited scouts who are willing to “suck gravel for the organization.”
Our associate began to see the humor in it all. It was not a career-enhancing move and not one we would recommend, but it was gutsy. Instead of giving in to emotion and launching a full-scale investigation to discover the culprit, he returned to his office and sent out a company-wide email offering a reward of two free dinners to the employee who collected the most pieces of the hedgehog. In less than an hour, the ceilings were clean and people were laughing and getting back to work.
In some cases, the best solution to a problem, which is not life threatening or illegal, is to not take offense but to lighten up and seek out winning solutions for the company. A few weeks passed and one day he arrived at work and found a new stuffed hedgehog on his desk (an unexpected tender mercy).
He acknowledged, learned, and found the win in the suffering and lived to play and work another day!
(Develop an excellent internal navigation system)
It is easy to recognize when we feel thrown under the bus. We might not be aware that some of our simplest actions can also be considered less than noble or undermining.
Take a moment to ask yourself, “Is this for the highest good of all? What does the ultimate outcome look like? Am I throwing anyone under the bus or could it be even perceived that way?”
There is a plaque that hangs in an open space of our offices with a quote by Hunter S. Thompson that sums it all up: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!’”
So far, no one has dismantled it and glued it to the ceiling, so we might be on to something.
May all your work experiences in, on, or under the bus present an opportunity to develop, grow and learn. And never forget, all the truly great entrepreneurs have at least a few tread marks.
Additional reporting for this article provided by Mary Michelle Scott, Fishbowl President.
To learn more about running a successful business, visit the Business Owner’s Playbook.
This article was written by David K. Williams from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.