Grounds Training Tutor Frank Newberry reports on how we can all be tempted to blame others for our workplace woes. He suggests the way forward is to try not to play 'the victim'.
There is a line in the Taylor Swift song 'Look What You Made Me Do' which captures perfectly the type of 'victim' thinking that can afflict us all.
Blaming others is a natural reaction when we feel that we have been wronged at work. Maybe we have been blamed for another's mistake or, in some other way, judged unfairly. Why should we take the blame when it's not our fault? Fair point.
In the case of Miss Swift, we have the not uncommon occurrence of a person (Miss Swift) looking for someone to blame for what she is now herself doing - as in 'Look what you made me do' - 'the role you make me play - the fool'.
The whole song seems to be a series of complaints about other people - who apparently caused her to feel that she was being pushed into a role that she did not want - that role being? To play the fool.
Blames many people
Miss Swift blames many people for causing her to sit down and write her latest studio album 'Reputation' as a response to their actions. The suggestion here being that she had other plans for the album - which she had to change because other people were treating her badly?
Now that 'Reputation' has become a best seller and has been critically acclaimed, should Miss Swift give the bad people in her life some creative credit for the album's success? Where next I wonder when the BBC reviewer (this is just one example) said it was 'an album of perfectly formed, clinically produced, contemporary pop songs'.
Slovenian Greenkeepers and Groundsmen
Closer to home now - well, Slovenia - where I was recently invited to run a group working session on the theme 'Motivation - the Key to Success?' I was advised that the members of the Slovenian Greenkeepers Association (which also represents groundsmen) were feeling low, were in a bad place and demotivated because their employers were no longer investing money or paying decent wages. I immediately thought of Miss Swift and 'Look What You Made Me Do' which in the case of our Slovenian friends and their employers was - 'You demotivated me, you brought me down, and you have left me in a bad place'.
I explained (as I always do) at the outset of my session in their beautiful country that I have, for many years, been paid handsomely to go to conferences and workplaces - to meet people and to motivate them. I have such an event - for gardeners in the National Trust - in the pipeline right now.
Save their money and spend it on something nice
I went on to explain that, when approached, I tell employers that I cannot motivate anyone - that they should save their money and spend it on something nice for their employees.
My confession discourages no one. My words always seem to have the opposite effect on all interested parties. Witnessing my heart-felt admission, employers are immediately convinced that I am absolutely the right man for the job. When can you start Frank? How long do you need? Can we do the entire workforce in one go? So yes, I have worked with entire workforces in hotel ballrooms and, on one occasion, a pub.
Usually, I start my session by telling my audience that I cannot motivate anyone, but in Slovenia I changed it slightly. I took three chairs (see photo) and explained that the chairs were 'empty' because I had banned the people who would have used them from attending the session.
What's the point in doing a good job around here?
In Slovenia, I told them that chair number one was for 'that person who demotivates you', chair number two was for 'that person who depresses you' and chair number three was for 'that person who makes you think 'what's the point in doing a good job around here?'
I further explained that they (the audience members) were the only people who could let the three absentees into the room and into their lives. Why? Because the only person who demotivates me - is me, and the only person who demotivates you - is you. The only person who motivates me - is me and so on. I make the point that we are all grown-ups and we all need to take care not to choose to play 'the victim'.
Our personal motivation is our personal choice
I then admonished them on behalf of their families, their friends and their employers to never let any other person in the world have the power to change their mood or to hurt their feelings. We, unlike Miss Swift, should have no one to blame. No one except ourselves to say, 'look what you made me do' to. Our mood, our personal motivation is our personal choice - no one else's.
I will allow one exception. I find it very hard to not give my children and grandchildren power to hurt me. It goes with the job - when you love someone you give them the power to hurt you.
Back in Slovenia, people seemed quite 'up for it' at this point, so we quickly moved onto working in five groups to 1) set goals, and 2) describe good ways to start achieving improvements in their:
1. Communication between workers and supervisors
2. Educational programmes and standards
3. Attitudes and achievements
4. Career path expectations
5. Working conditions
Pages of positive ideas were produced
These five areas had been pre-selected by the Association's board members. The board members were very impressed when literally pages of positive ideas were produced within the hour of the session. It must be said that no one allowed anyone to play the victim during the group work.
As I write, I am looking forward to getting an email with the full list of ideas.
Notwithstanding that bad things can happen to any one of us - I wish you success in the choices you make, especially in avoiding playing the victim - at work and in life.
© 2017 Frank Newberry