• A Leadership Lesson: What Happens When You Throw Your Employees Under the Bus?

    Sometimes the best leadership lesson comes from almost being fired. Here’s the story of a time that I was called into the CEO’s office, as a fairly new middle manager type in a growing company…

    I was out of the office one day and received a phone call that the CEO wanted to see me right away.

    I asked if it could wait until I finished my next customer meeting… To which the Executive Assistant on the other end of the phone said clearly that it could not.

    My drive back to the office was full of fear, uncertainty, and… did I say fear?

    I walked into the office and his assistant took me into his room right away. I was sweating buckets.

    Inside, I found the CEO and my boss. My boss looked scared and the CEO looked pissed off! Ian, the CEO, asked me to take a seat. I sat down. Then, he launched with a full on attack; raising his voice and asking me who gave me the authority to implement a sales compensation plan to my group without approval.

    It was clear right away by the look on my boss’s face that he’d “thrown me under the bus.” Which is a fancy way of saying that my boss had been questioned about an expense and he right away pointed the finger at me versus doing what leaders do and getting the facts.

    Ian had me. It was my plan. I did not get approval ahead of time. I had made the mistake of thinking that I had the authority to do so. I took complete ownership.

    Fully convinced that the next thing out of Ian’s mouth was going to be “Your Fired!”, I began to mentally prepare for the unemployment line.

    Ian then asked me what I had hoped to achieve by the plan? I explained that the plan would incent some non-sales team members to prospect for some business that would pay them a small incentive for actual business. The results were that for approximately $10K in expenses, it drove over $300K in new business at a very high margin.

    Ian smiled.

    He then told me that if I had not taken ownership, he would have fired me. He thanked me for my honesty and for driving the business.

    My boss on the other hand… got fired, for throwing a team member under the bus. Turned out that he was also taking credit for a lot of the team’s ideas…

    Why do some managers throw their team members under the bus?

    1. Lack of confidence
    2. Not living their own or the company’s values
    3. Fear – which should really make you wonder, “why on earth would any job in the world be worth living in fear???”


    As a leader, your number one responsibility is to the people you lead and the customers they serve. Your team will always watch your back if they know you are watching theirs. Your customers will be served better by a team that feels safe, appreciated, and respected by you, the leader. This combination will produce a profitable business.

    Live authentically. Keep it simple.

    Robert Murray is a Vancouver, BC based Business Strategy Consultant, partner at Incrementa Consulting Inc., #1 Best Selling Author, and International Keynote Speaker. For further advice, insight and inspiration on how to unlock your inner leader, follow Robert on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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