WT 727 I don't want to throw you under the bus

Do you know what word usually follows this statement?

“I don’t want to throw you under the bus, BUT” and then comes a negative comment.

It’s as if you know what you’re about to say won’t be well received or appreciated.

It’s a form of inoculation, letting the person know that something bad is following and yet saying it seems to justify the criticism we’re about to give.

And it’s usually in a public setting, otherwise there is no need to say it.

In my book, there is no reason to say it full-stop.

Let’s take a look at two examples and you tell me which one you would prefer to receive.

Imagine we’re in a meeting at work. Your name is Michael. You’ve just shared your point of view which happens to disagree with one of your team mates. The manager says, (in front of everyone):

  1. “I don’t want to throw you under the bus Michael, but when you disagreed with Mary just now, Steven really reacted. Like he was really angry about that and I think you could have controlled your own emotions better.”
  2. “It seems like we have some strong views on this topic. I’d like to hear everyone’s opinion please. I’d like to be able to understand how it affects everyone so we can work together to resolve this issue. Can we agree to use our communication and problem solving skills to work through this please?”

Which one do you prefer?

I’ve recently witnessed this type of interaction on a number of occasions and I cringe when I hear it.

It’s not the leader or team member’s fault if they don’t know any better.

I just wish everyone could be exposed to communication training. For me, it’s an essential part of our leadership training.

There are ways to say things that land better for the receiver.

It’s not that we don’t want to give feedback or points for improvement or even disagree. It’s the way we do it and the words we use that often damage the relationship.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

You can learn to express yourself in a non-judgemental way. One way you can do this is to focus on the unacceptable behaviour rather than passing judgement or labelling another.

For example, say an employee has a pattern of arriving at work 10 – 15 minutes after start time. A label would go something like, “Boy, you’re inconsiderate. You don’t care about the rest of us. You’re always late.”

Not only is that a label, it’s a “You Statement” and we tend to get defensive when we hear them.

A better way to communicate is to describe the situation and the unacceptable behaviour, how it makes you feel and the effect on you. It’s known as a Confronting I Message, created by Thomas Gordon.

“Start time is 9:00am. It’s unacceptable to arrive after this time and I can’t focus on my work because I am concerned that something may have happened to you on the way to work. Is there a reason for the late arrival?”

If you care about the relationship, use your communication skills.  That assumes you have them of course.

Next time you feel like throwing someone under the bus, think about the message before you say it. What is the outcome you really want?

Choose your words carefully.

P. S. Invite your friends to get the Weekly Thoughts delivered directly to their inbox. Go to https://shirleydalton.com/weekly-thoughts.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This