By Denis Liam Murphy, High-Performance Leadership Coach and Author
“If I had a new boss I would love my job!”
“If it wasn’t for my boss I would be happy!”
If I was to believe all of the stories I hear about bad bosses, I would conclude that their main role in our life is to make us miserable. Of course, I had my own horrible boss stories, but that was before I became aware of not only how prolific and impactful blame is in our lives, but also how misunderstood it is. Especially when it comes to preventing us from accessing our self-honesty, which is paramount to unlocking promotional opportunities.
Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone
Believe it or not ‘bosses’ are human too. They have the same stuff going on in their heads (and lives) as we do. It is easy to forget whilst we keep interacting with them as the ‘boss’ rather than appreciating that there is a person behind the label. When we are aware of this we develop more empathy for them and the job they are there to do. As well as their everyday tasks, they are here to develop and prepare us for more responsibility that comes with promotions. Generally speaking, learning new skills and stepping outside our comfort zone are not our favorite things. They often come with fear (anxiety), stress, and resistance. These are prime times to play the blame game.
We can feel extremely justified in our accusations. Especially when colleagues, friends, family, and partners confirm our side of the story. Thinking that your boss is holding you back is a very disempowering place to be as it puts you in the victim mindset. You feel powerless to change yourself or your situation. You start to focus on external factors being responsible for your growth and development, rather than being aware that ultimately your career progression is in your hands.
The Antidote to Blame is Self-honesty
For thousands of years, we have been playing and perfecting the blame game. We can internalize it all, blame ourselves for not being good enough, and feed any imposter syndrome beliefs we have. Or, externalize it and throw blame bombs around, reinforcing the idea that life is unfair and our boss is the problem in our life.
However, there is a third option that few people are aware of. In my book, The Blame Game: How to Recover From the World’s Oldest Addiction, I call it self-honesty. The more we are in the blame space, the less access we have to our self-honest endgames and motivations.
For example, a client of mine was frustrated and angry that their boss overlooked them for a promotion a second time. However, even though they initially told me how much they wanted the promotion, after some encouragement to get self-honest, they admitted they didn’t actually want the promotion. They were already overwhelmed with tasks, and the thought of managing a team was too much responsibility for them. They immediately felt relief as all their anger towards their boss left them once they could admit this to themselves.
The issue is, that we are so used to jumping to blame-based conclusions, that we are not used to, or encouraged to self-reflect in this self-honest way.
A Little Self-Reflection
We can often leave our empathy and open mind at the office door because we are too busy blaming our bosses for the woes in our lives. This is why a little self-reflection on your self-honesty goes a long way. It helps you, for a moment, to step out of your blame and victim mindset to reassess possible endgames playing out in the background you are unaware of. A client of mine didn’t want to admit that they didn’t like public speaking. Everything was going well until they started being asked to give presentations. Unconsciously, they were creating lots of issues and tension with their boss just so they wouldn’t be asked to give them. Because they hadn’t done any self-reflection, they didn’t know they had anything to contribute to their experiences.
Believe it or not, our bosses are here to help us in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. When blame is in the air and your defensive walls go up and the red mist comes down, it is time to sit back and self-reflect on your self-honesty. The better you get at this skill, the more you will realize you have a lot more to do with your life than you realize.