What is Scapegoating? – How to Deal with it in the Workplace

Introduction

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 whichwhat is scapegoating 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 what is scapegaotingLeviticus 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 scapegoatingstarting 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.

scapegoatingIf 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.scapegoating

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 scapegoatinggo 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?scapegoating

Of course you will need support, almost all of us do. The world’s best supporting organisation is Wealthy Affiliate (WA) and they have been in the business for 10 years now. Check out how WA exactly works in my personal view of WA here and join them for a completely free one week trial!

Feel free to leave your comments and questions here and I will come back to you within 24 hours.

14 Replies to “What is Scapegoating? – How to Deal with it in the Workplace”

  1. Hi. What do you do when it feels like I am being targeted, blamed and punished for the sins of other people and being made a blame agent because I am trying to expose the truth…………

    1. You get the hell out of there, before your health suffers from this unsavoury work situation. It looks like everybody is against you, so make sure you are going to do something else. You can prepare for leaving by already starting for yourself, using this enormous opportunity of Wealthy Affiliate as your ultimate support program. In the meantime, stop trying to tell the truth and concentrate on doing your own work as best as you can. Good luck!

  2. Call it what you will, but this pathetic and cowardice behavior is nothing more a cry for help!! No-one can or ever will escape the darkside of human behavior, life is a constant challenge whether you want it or not!! Get hard or die!!

    1. Not everyone is equally equipped to deal with these situations. I make it an effort to help people by explaining the phenomenon and showing a way out.

  3. Dear Jerry,

    Thanks for this very informative article. I find it extremely helpful.

    It has been 5 years, that I worked for a Multinational Company with a manager, who keeps scapegoating and blaming me and my staff whenever anything that went wrong under his own responsibility.

    Hope I can get out of this situation soon.

    1. Hi Stephen, sorry to hear about your predicament. Five years is a long time to experience a bad boss like that. I sure hope that with my suggestions given, you will be able to do something about your work situation. Especially be aware that your frustration does not get the better of you. You could say the wrong things or raise your voice, both of which will not be of help to you. If you keep feeling the stress and do something immediately in order to avoid health problems. Good luck and let me know if you need any more advice.

      1. thank you Jerry for this article it really opened my eyes, my question now is Do scapegoaters know that they are scapegoaters or its just a human disease.

        1. If you are a bit older and more experienced you would probably know what is happening around you. However, there are a lot of starters and younger people who will only feel that something is amiss. It is for those people that I am writing and explaining what is happening at their work place. And yes, many times they still have to be told and explained and this article aims to help. As you may have noticed this site, howtobeatyourboss, in general wants to support the persons who are in trouble with their boss. Let me know if you have any more queries and I will try to help.

  4. Tell me about it! I have been experiencing what you just explained but did not have a name for it. Scapegoating is a very bad practice. The work place should be a peaceful place because people spend a bulk of their life there but unfortunately it hardly is. You have very great advice on this topic. I will try some of them and see what happens.

    1. I am sorry to hear that you are in this situation. Yes, try some of the tips I gave and I do hope you will be successful with your change in attitude. The worst thing you can do is just sit there and hope for the better. Remember that there always is a way out.

  5. Thanks to your website I now know what scapegoating is and how to avoid it and be positive.Everything that I need to start my own business is right here.It is a shame that there our bosses out there that will push there mistakes on someone else . Potentially this could cause someone to lose there only way of supporting their family.I will recommend this to my friends as a very informative site.

    1. Hi Carlton, I am glad I could be of help and I hope you will never be in a situation as described. Scapegoating can have dire consequences for the victims, as you said, and bosses never seem to have the empathy to think about the fallout of their actions and decisions on their employees in question. Thank you for recommending this site to your friends, so that they also can become aware of what can happen in the working jungles. Cheers, Jerry

  6. Hey Jerry, Its so good to learn about scapegoating, I mean no one wants to ever be a scapegoat. Unfortunately one way or the other we find ourselves taking the fall for what we collectively did with friends or even worse taking the fall for what we didnt do. nice write up and good website.

    1. Hi Kelly, yes people often-times single out the seemingly weakest in a group and then collectively put the blame on their victim. In case of a boss exercising this malpractice, the quality of life for an employee can be seriously damaged. If no action is taken the job might be lost, people might become depressive or even suicidal. I hope that people who find themselves in this predicament, will take this article to heart and follow a course of action as described. Cheers, Jerry

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