Here’s the thing about being a manager: we’re always in the middle.
And that means we can take 💩 from anyone for just about anything.
Right? If someone on your team makes a mistake, does your boss talk to them directly?
Probably not. They come to you.
After all, you were responsible for training them on how to do the job and supervising them every day.
And if the company makes changes like layoffs, changes to benefits, or new initiatives that the employees don’t like, who takes the heat from them?
They come to you.
After all, you are their manager and their most accessible company representative.
We have our hands in everything. Which means we could easily become the ones dealing with everyone else’s negativity.
Maybe that’s why out of any group of employees, managers are the most likely to have mental health problems.
There’s a big danger here for us as managers. Because we’re constantly getting hit by the blame other people are flinging, we might start to throw it back.
Any of us might fall into the habit of acting just like everyone else.
And if there’s one thing that all managers should stop doing right now, it’s blaming others.
The real problem
The problem with blame is that when we do it, we’re giving control to other people.
And that’s really dangerous, because the key to being a great leader is learning to control yourself; being the best manager you can be is all about managing yourself first.
If you blame other people for the way you’re feeling, you let their actions control you.
And you tell yourself and everyone else that the only way you can be happy is if everyone else does what you want them to do.
And let’s be honest, as nice as that might sound, it’s never going to happen. We can’t force people to do anything.
And managers that blame and try to control other people will never be successful in the long run.
The more they try to control other people, the more they allow other people to be in control of them.
Your success depends on your ability to take ownership.
There are lots of reasons why things might go wrong.
But each one of us must take ownership of our own internal state.
We can’t choose what circumstances we have to deal with.
But we can choose how we respond to whatever craziness comes up at work.
We can own the decisions we make.
We can own the results of our actions and the work we do.
And we should take responsibility for the feelings that are happening inside us.
And when we do that instead of blaming others for how we feel, we get to be in control of ourselves.
And when we’re in control of ourselves and get good at showing up at work as the person we want to be, great things can happen.
We can influence, inspire, motivate, and set an example for others to follow.
The great thing about being in the middle
When you work hard to be a great manager of yourself, then being in the middle becomes a blessing instead of feeling like a curse.
Just like throwing a pebble into the middle of a calm pond, the efforts you make to be a great leader will ripple out and affect the people around you—your entire team, the customers they serve, your boss, your boss’s boss, your family, and friends, and… you get the idea.
The bottom line
It takes courage and inner strength to stop the cycle of blame that’s spinning out of control in most workplaces.
As middle managers, you and I are in the best position to stop the blaming and start taking control of ourselves.
When you do, great things will happen.
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Set aside some private time to write-out your responses to the exercise below. Turn off your phone and computer notifications or put your devices away completely. Find a place where you can spend a few minutes without being interrupted.
Think about a situation at work that brings up negative feelings for you.
Image that no one else but you had any influence over the situation — you own it 100%.
If you had all the knowledge and skills you needed to create a resolution, what would the resolution be like?
What might be the smallest step you can take right now toward that resolution?
Nate Sleger is a career manager, management coach, and author of The Manager’s Self-Coaching Guide. His course Show Up At Work Like A Superhero has been taken by hundreds of managers worldwide. He currently lives and works in Wisconsin, USA.