How to Stop the Drama of Scapegoating at Work

If you want to stay clear of team nastiness, work alone. Otherwise, learn the dos and don’ts to stop the deadly sport of scapegoating.

By Sylvia LafairPresident, Creative Energy Options@sylvialafair

No longer can we go to work, keep our heads down and just get through the day to leave and start to live our lives.

In this day and age, whether you work virtually or in an office filled with people be ready to socialize and more importantly, learn the dynamics of team relationships.

Let’s zero in on scapegoating.

You ever think about where the term originated? It was way back in ancient times and it had to do with actual goats.

A scapegoat is a person or animal which takes on the sins of others, or is unfairly blamed for problems.

Back in Biblical times a goat was designated to be cast into the desert taking with it the sins of the community. Nice, huh?

That way no one had to be burdened with what we talk about today, stuff like accountability.

Many who are yearning for personal power do so by finding the weakest link in the team chain and giving them the evil eye. They are blamed for any and often all of the problems that show up day after day.

Another form of scapegoating that has been hanging around forever is making groups into scapegoats.

This is where “they” are the culprits. In her excellent article for Harvard Business Review, Ner Eyal talks about the need for an imaginary scapegoat. Good tactic for not being accountable. If “he did it, she did it, they did it” then of course, you were innocent..

Just point your finger and you are off the hook.

One of my coaching clients, Dena, called me because she was feeling like all fingers were pointing at her. It took her a few months to see that dear, sweet Jodi was casting her into the desert.

She got wise and learned the underlying dynamics of team relationships. Here is the list she complied and asked me to get to as many people as possible.

* Don’t suffer in silence.

* Do build alliances.

* Don’t fall into the trap and blame others.

* Do learn to be self-aware.

* Don’t focus on the negative.

* Do respond in the positive.

Not easy, she told me. It takes discipline and perseverance to come back from the desert whole and assured you can take on the scapegoater without fear of being trampled on again.

Here is one important thing Dena learned from working with Jodi: she had an old, ingrained belief that no matter how hard she worked, she would let people down. That belief, planted in her childhood memory haunted her at work.

Once she was able to connect the dots of her old belief and how she showed up at work, everything began to change.

Here’s the rest of the story: Dena was promoted and her old nemesis has another scapegoat. She asked me to send this to her new “victim” as a wake up call. Let’s hope for the best.

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