Tens of thousands of employees worldwide seek professional help for job stress, and many more attempt to cope through other means like alcohol, drugs, angry outbursts or emotional and social withdrawal. This will result in high workers turnover, absenteeism, substance abuse and stress claims that cost the companies/economy billions of dollars each year. Unbelievably there are still a large number of workplaces that have developed a culture which actively promotes all of these sufferings. It is a culture of scapegoating: a process of seeking out individuals then blaming and punishing them for problems that have nothing whatsoever to do with this particular victimised individual. On the work floor many a boss uses this trick on his worker(s).
If you think you have experienced or seen scapegoating previously or if you are undergoing it presently, then this article is for you and I am going to explain what scapegoating is, how you can recognise it and I will give you 5 handy tips on what you can do about it.
What is a scapegoat?
A scapegoat tends to take the fall for the problems of the larger organisation. The word comes from a passage in Leviticus in the Bible, in which a goat is blamed for the sins of an entire community and then banished into the wilderness. Thus it magically relieves the community from having to look any further for what went wrong. What happens here is that one person is picked out; the blame is transferred to that particular person, following which the victim is isolated and finally either punished or banished.
You might think: how does this help the company? Of course it does not; successful scapegoating usually means that the real issues are never identified, so the problem continues to exist or will reoccur in the future. But it surely helps the people that are really responsible for the problem, the bosses, as they will go scot-free. Read here about your way out.
How to recognise scapegoating
Unfortunately, political manoeuvring is part of the tides of office life. When the hairs on the back of your neck are starting to go up, that’s a sign that something is going wrong. Most of the time, especially in a work situation, you can’t believe you are the one that has been singled out and you will cope with that by denial. You like to imagine, that it can’t happen to you.
Maybe you told the boss that the new plan doesn’t make sense and you still feel that you are a good employee with that company. You come to work on time. But all of a sudden people start to avoid you; the boss is rolling his eyes when you speak in a meeting. These are the first signs that people around you are isolating you.
Can it happen to you?
People are trying to survive and will go at length to protect themselves. Anyone of us can or even will be in a situation like this. Professional helpers see new clients each week that suffer from the consequences of scapegoating. Sadly there are many of you who do not talk at all about their issues and just continue working. But people, please remember that it is your health that is at stake here! So, look for professional help or better yet, do something about your situation. Here are some practical tips that might help you solve these issues.
How to deal with scapegoating?
In order to deal with scapegoating, you will need counter moves that are designed to deflect attention from yourself, broaden the scope of the discussion, and determine the true source of the difficulty. The most basic thing to counter scapegoating is to break down your isolation; this enables you to slow down the process of scapegoating or to recover from it.
If you have a boss who likes to play this game, you may have to divert significant energy to ongoing CYA activity. Here are some counter moves to break the isolation:
Stick to the facts.
One of the best counter moves always is to have facts available that support your case or point.
Do not enter into a needless argument.
Because no one likes being blamed, scapegoat discussions can turn into heated debates. You may feel with some justification that you are being unfairly attacked. You might respond in kind, turning the discussion into a confrontation. As this is not helpful, please avoid this at all cost.
By doing the contrary and distancing yourself from the bully, you will show that you are not willing to back down and you will not be used as an easy target.
Defend yourself with confidence.
Without firing back directly, try to show self confidence into your responses. You deserve to be treated with respect, and by showing self confidence, you won’t allow people to treat you any less than that.
Bring other aspects to the discussion.
Invite people to consider other possible causes of the problem. You can point out certain factors that might have been overlooked.
Take some of the responsibility.
To avoid appearing defensive, you may volunteer to assume some portion of the blame. After you’ve admitted to your wrongs, point out where you had no control and where others could own up to their faults too. Your point is to improve the situation and not to make others feel bad as well.
Conclusion plus recommendation
If your happen to be in a working environment that is poisoned, a scapegoating boss might spell out a mistake by severely reprimanding someone else. In doing this he dodges any responsibility for his actions, because he wants to go scot-free.
This habit of blaming others can cause serious, persistent problems. By not acknowledging his role in causing mistakes, the boss will not be looking for answers that can prevent mistakes in the future. And by blaming the innocent, he causes valuable employees to quit. This, in turn, overburdens the remaining personnel, resulting in more failures. A very unsavoury situation! However, even when it is your boss who is scapegoating you (and not your colleagues), you still have counter measures at your disposal as described in this article.
But what if the management cannot or will not change or move on the guy in question? I think then you better protect yourself and your health and find another workplace. And yes, you will be at risk of another boss with all his tricks. Read here what you can do when you become unemployed.
There is a definite way out of this misery!
Why do you not start your own business? E.g. start by working from home on the internet, which has endless possibilities to earn (additional) income. How would it feel having your own internet business through your own website?
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Feel free to leave your comments and questions here and I will come back to you within 24 hours.