Why I hate buses

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Clay Adams | May 7th, 2015

No, this blog has nothing to do with the Lower Mainland transit plebiscite. Some of my colleagues have already shared their views on that one.

It also has nothing to do with the state of buses and transit. As a transit user, I can truly appreciate how good – and crappy – public transport is. The West Coast Express is comfortable (unless it is stuck on the track for uncontrolled delays); the Canada Line is fantastic (truly); and buses are, well, a bit like attending a family gathering. I never quite know what I’m walking into and, when I do, I usually regret it and want to get the hell out as soon as possible.

But that’s not the “real” reason I hate buses. I hate buses because they are dangerous. And they’re dangerous because we don’t expect them to be dangerous. I’m not talking about the 14 or so people who lose their lives in bus collisions annually, although my heart goes out to such victims and their families.

My fear is for those whose lives are changed forever by being thrown under them.

To “throw someone under the bus” is a phrase meaning to sacrifice a friend or ally for selfish reasons or personal gain. My experience is this usually occurs because someone doesn’t want to take responsibility for their own actions, so why not blame someone else?

Many times

I have seen people thrown under the bus over the years. In some cases it was by a manager, director or even CEO choosing to preserve their own butt by throwing the blame for their actions onto another. I’ve also seen colleagues do it. There was a time, sheepishly, I would just watch it occur, hanging my head in shame because I failed to defend them.

Only recently, I too was a victim. Thrown under a bus by someone who did not agree with my perspective that what they wanted was not the right approach for the organization. A quick email and BAM!

Thankfully I got up, dusted myself off and mumbled a few less-than-polite comments about the person. Most of all, I couldn’t understand why they took that approach. Certainly it achieved nothing. I continued down a different road. The job was done, and life moved on. All was fine other than the bruised ego of the person who pushed me because they didn’t get “their” way.

Trust, respect and support

Which gets me to the point of this blog…it is time to make our career journey safer. It is time to act and no longer be silent. Meeting recently with a bunch of new VCH managers, I was asked what I thought the secret to being a good leader is. That some may have thought I actually had some insight to the question is flattering, but to me the secret gets down to two words – trust, respect and support.

Okay, three words. People say a good leader is someone who encourages hiring people more skilled than they are. A nice philosophy, although one that would suggest the CEO is the least-skilled person in an organization – something that is absolutely, definitely not the case at VCH which has the most amazing, fantastic and superb boss in the entire world (sucking up ends now).

To me, being a good leader means obviously attracting the right people but also giving them the ability to do their job the way they are trained and capable of doing it. It means recognizing mistakes may be made but being there to support and guide them through it.

Learning opportunities

I’ve made some mistakes in my life, all of which became learning opportunities. For example, I no longer drink half-a-bottle of scotch in one sitting. Or cross the road on a “Don’t Walk” sign. Or run…anywhere. I also learned not to be baited by dumb asses or stupid questions.

Most of all, I learned that by being supportive as a leader and colleague you can be a better person and part of a great team – and that is truly something special.

So, have you been thrown under the bus? If so, do you want to share your story (minus names as, after all, we must be respectful) so we can all learn from it?

About the Author

Clay Adams
email iconClay.Adams@vch.ca  

Clay Adams is vice president of Communications and Public Affairs and has extensive experience in strategic communications and planning, media relations, issues management and stakeholder communications in Australia and Canada. Clay writes on communication related topics with a wry humorous style and has an interest in discussion about how we want to be understood by others. View all the posts by Clay.

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7 comments on “Why I hate buses

  • Vini Bains says:

    What a timely moment to make this point. Its not just individuals that throw other people under the bus, sometimes its whole organizations. In this case I am referring specifically to BCNU and the legal suit against the CRNBC and ARNBC. I went to my first union meeting and thankfully the meeting was far more respectful than I anticipated, but it was incredibly disheartening to listen to BCNU leaders dismiss the value of CRNBC, ARNBC, nurse managers, nurse educators, nurse scholars primarily by spreading misinformation. Last I checked we were all nurses.

    What advice do you have about the actual process of dusting oneself off and standing up again?

    • Clay Adams says:

      Thanks Vini for sharing your thoughts. As you rightly point out, it is not just individuals who are prone to be thrown under the bus or, as we often say about communications people, used as cannon fodder. Companies, unions, political groups and others all have cases of placing self-interest among that of those they purport to serve or represent. Nice to see I’m not the only one such behavior bugs the crap out of. As for how to deal with such situations, that is matter of personal resilience and personality. For some, coping can be as healthy as taking up yoga to as unhealthy as drinking (not something I subscribe to…the yoga I mean). My first mad-as-cut-snake newspaper editor gave me a credo to live and work by that, unfortunately, I can’t put into print for fear of breaching every code of conduct VCH has. However, I can tell you, it has helped me by thinking of whenever testing situations arise. Overall, I would say the life is full of challenges and it is important to try to be as happy as one can throughout it which means sometimes standing up for what is right, making tough decisions and taking smart risks. Easily said when you have a mortgage/family/commitments/all the above to deal with, but if all else fails please don’t forget EFAP. It provides great confidential support in times of crisis, stress or anxiety.

  • Maria says:

    Having been held under the bus while it drove back and forth some years ago, I got up, dusted myself off and moved on. However, I learned something from it…. the minute I realize that I am being walked toward the bus my response is ” no thanks, I’ll walk”… and I do. The best cure is prevention.

  • Rosemary says:

    Well aren’t you brave to travel this road! And I thank you for this. I think if you are in the workforce long enough, you will ‘run’ into an experience of ‘being thrown under the bus’. The lesson I have learned is to not avoid it…to face it ‘head on’ (pun intended). The bus really isn’t the problem. It is how I will respond (or not) that will make the difference. How do I do this? Well first of all I need time to brush myself off and examine my bruises, lick my wounds. And acknowledge with some compassion that I am hurt and mad. I then get curious. Without having curiosity, I may as well just lay under the bus. I try to seek out solutions beyond yes/no or right/wrong. And although offended, I try my best to face the situation and choose to take no offense. From this place my view broadens to include others. The outcome does not always end up in agreement, but it is a more inclusive process on my part. As for good leaders? I think if you look close enough…you will see some tread marks.

    • Covered in tread marks says:

      I agree that getting over it and moving on helps the healing process and to be able to succeed in the new position. However, when the change is traumatic one tends to take it personally and it affects not only the employee but their family and lifestyle also. I know this from my own experience. That is one reason EFAP exists and provides us much needed support,

      • Clay Adams says:

        You highlight an excellent point. EFAP is a wonderful service and should not be seen as something to access only in times of “trouble”. Upheaval in the workplace can be traumatic for you, your family and your emotional well being. Not only aren’t you going to be the only person to be thrown under a bus, you certainly shouldn’t feel alone if it does happen. Talk to colleagues, family, friends and – of course – EFAP. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Keel hauled under a bus says:

    Thank you Clay for bringing this subject up.
    I was on the bus ride of my life for 20 years and then pushed out the back door. After all those years of never being late, hardly ever sick and depended on to keep a department afloat, I am back at the original bus stop covered in bumps and bruises. Hopefully the bus I am now aboard will take me to safely to my final destination.

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