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Submitted by 1213ma on


Dear All,

As as foreman on crew using earthmoving equipment my responsibilites include overseeing the crew of operators each day. My boss who is often absent (personal reasons) has taken much of the credit when things have gone well. Now things are not going well infact his boss is now on site daily.  My concern is now we are bearing the blame for the failures when there has been absent leadership. How do I protect my job without throwing my boss under the bus?

Any comments welcome.


mattpalmer's picture

I think you're unnecessarily confusing two separate issues here -- that your boss "takes credit" when things are going well, and that things aren't going well now (and presumably your boss is avoiding responsibility for that).  I'll address each one separately, because they are separate issues.

Your boss is entitled to take all the credit for your hard work.  It's not cool when he doesn't pass credit along, and it might not seem fair, but it isn't *wrong*.  Whatever he's done right (whether it be hiring, firing, motivational speeches, or just being a lucky son-of-a-gun), that is what has given him the "right" to claim credit.

The flip side to this, though, is that all the responsibility for failure (should) also fall on his shoulders.  That's the dark side of management, and it's the balance for being able to take the credit.  It seems like you're mostly put out that it doesn't appear that your boss is nobly falling on his sword. Such is life.  It takes courage to do that, and many people aren't that strong.  You don't know it isn't happening behind the scenes, anyway.  Your boss could have had lengthy and apologetic phone calls with his boss, or his boss may have recognised your boss' failings and has ripped him a new one so big you could drive a front-end loader through it.  I think you've got some inkling of this, since you're not out to throw your boss under the bus, I just thought that since you brought up the issue of your boss taking credit, it was worth addressing.  We'll move on.

To avoid throwing your boss under the bus, you just need to avoid blamestorming.  The easiest way to do this is to talk about the future, not the past. Don't refer to previous projects (as much as you can), but talk about how *you* and *your team* are going to work differently next time.  If you *have* to mention your boss (say something went south because you needed his urgent approval and he wasn't around), still deal with it in forward-looking terms, like "if I need to get approval for X, I'll make sure I talk to Bob (your boss) immediately, or if he isn't available for some reason, I'll call you or (someone else) straight away to make sure we don't get delayed on that part of things".

If your boss' boss wants to talk about the past, then you've got to do it, and in that case, you will need to take responsibility for things.  Show you've got the intestinal fortitude to own up to whatever part you and your people had to play in whatever's gone wrong.  It's rare that a person who is involved in a failure had absolutely no ability to influence its outcome.  You may not have been able to do better at the time, but what have you learnt as a result?  Focus on that.  Turn it back around and talk about how you'll do things better next time.

Again, with the example above, you could say "I needed approval for X, and Bob wasn't available to give approval, and so I sat on it, which caused the project to run late.  Next time, if I can't get hold of Bob, I'll immediately talk to you or (someone else) to get approval".  If your boss' boss doesn't have the authority to make that approval, and you know it, you could turn it around into a question, saying "I know that Bob's the only one who can grant this approval.  If he's not available next time I need that approval, what should I do to work around the problem?".  It might be that your boss' boss doesn't know about this approval problem, or realise how big a deal it is, and they'll work within other levels of the organisation to fix the issue.

1213ma's picture
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Matt, thanks for the thoughts. You're right about the lengthy apology calls. I agree the future is about the only thing that can be changed!


Thanks man!

buhlerar's picture

If things aren't going well and your boss' boss is on site, you can be sure your boss is feeling the heat.  Very few bosses have much patience for excuses, so even if yoru boss is throwing you guys under the bus the big boss still thinks he was inadequate at managing you all.

If you think the boss got a lot of credit before and now he's getting off scott free, you're really going out of your way to interpret things in the most illogically pessimistic way possible.  Matt gives some good advice: take ownership for your own mistakes and focus on future improvement.

dan west's picture
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 If your grandboss is on site he/she knows there is a problem. They are not looking to fix blame, they are looking to get the project back on track. If you are seen as someone working like hell to fix the problem, it will be noticed.

A related comment was mentioned on a cast recently. The gist was to worry about what you can control. You can't control your bosses behavior, but you can control your own. Fix the problem (or as much of it you can). The rest usually will take care of itself. 

Good luck. This is a tough problem. I've been there before. Results are what got me through it.



mattpalmer's picture

I'm going to use that.

garrengough's picture

Boss is a team chief for all cluster or set and there staff pursue him. He lead his panel how to struggle and also he administer all extra attire of department

Charlotteq's picture

i am not agree this statement because boss is not happy any. If you have done lots of work but boss is not satisfied with your work.