Misdirected Blame Leaves Employees Unhappy | Employee Behaviour

Ask any employee if they are happy at their job and you will likely get a very mild response.

"Yeah, I guess", or, "it's not bad", or even, "it could be worse" are common responses.

Ask these employees why they don't answer "I love it" and they will likely point to something someone else is or is not doing.

They lay blame upon any number of external factors, such as their employer, a manager, or even their customers, for their internal feelings of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and being "stuck".

It is like they are willingly giving someone else the keys to the car and then constantly complaining about how that other person is driving.

They are trying to suck and blow at the same time...

And this isn't doing anyone any good.


Not too long after I co-founded The 2% Factor, I was asked by a friend of mine, who at the time was the VP of Sales for an industrial cleaning product manufacturer, to speak with one of his sales people.

This sales person had a history of good performance but her attitude, behaviour, and performance had steadily declined for the previous 2 quarters.

I agreed and this sales person and I met offsite one morning for a cup of coffee and a frank discussion.

Throughout the conversation, I asked her how she felt about the company, its products, her role in the company, her manager and the VP of Sales, and her general outlook on things.

What I learned from her answers put everything into perspective.

Earlier in the year she had not received a promotion that she had wanted, which had instead gone to another top sales person. 

"Do you know why you didn't receive the promotion and the other person did?", I asked.

Her response further revealed the true source of the issue, "No, no one ever came to me and told me why...but I am pretty sure it is because [the other person] sucks up to our manager all of the time."

"So they refused to tell you the reason when you asked?", I followed up.

"I never asked...but I doubt they would tell me anyway. I don't think the VP likes me, so I doubt I would get a honest answer.", I was told.

She then proceeded to list all of the things wrong with her manager, the VP, the workplace, her coworkers, and even her portfolio of customers accounts. 

They were all, she truthfully believed, to blame for not getting the promotion.

I ended what had become a "blame-fest" with a single question, "Do you still like working for the company?"

I remember how she looked at me like I had two heads before answering, "Absolutely not. It is a terrible place to work and I am miserable there."

I shut down the discussion by asking her, "if you are so miserable working there, why do you still work there?"

She blamed everyone and everything for her misery (except herself) and yet every day made the decision to go back to what (she felt) was the source of her misery.



I selected this particular employee interaction as my example because it is a common employee behaviour.

It demonstrates the, all too often, observed scenario where an unhappy employee places the blame for their misery on other people or situations while failing to recognize the part their own behaviour and action plays.

It is this "blindness" that our Personal Mastery Program was designed to help people overcome as it is this "blindness" that accounts for 98% of employee unhappiness.

Put another way, an unhappy or dissatisfied worker will always blame someone or something else for their misery while rarely acknowledging that each year, they have 365 distinct opportunities to decide that THAT will be day they break their cycle of discontent.


If you have already read some of my articles, you may be familiar with something that we call the Law of Cooperative Action

This "law" speaks to the interdependence between the behaviour and actions of different individuals. 

It speaks to the fact that many people engage in behaviour that they have fooled themselves into believing in independent, when in fact it is very dependent on the behaviour or actions of others.

As Sean Connery's character, Jim Malone, in the movie The Untouchables said about capturing Al Capone, "He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue!".

Every moment of every day, we are doing something

Few of us take the time to reflect on how much influence the actions and behaviour of others have on what we are doing and how we are behaving. 

Few of us also take the time to reflect on how much control over our life we are giving others when we allow them to have this influence.

However, while herein lies the problem, herein also lies the solution.


In our one-day seminars on employee behaviour, we go into some detail discussing what individual employees can do to control how they act and react to the world and people around them.

While this article lacks the space for such explanation and detail, I will sum a few of these up into: 

  1. No matter how miserable at work you may be, accept that you have played a significant part in your continued misery. Stop wasting time denying your involvement and making excuses to yourself and, instead, spend time understanding what your part is and why it hasn't changed.
  2. Ask yourself what you can do differently tomorrow to get a different result. Rather than continuing to attempt to swim upstream and then getting angry when you can't, consider why you want to get upstream and, if it is still where you want to go, how you can get there a different way.
  3. Understand that in the world of cause and effect, by and large, we all live the life we deserve. If we choose to sit around and wait for something wonderful to come along, we will likely live a life without that something wonderful. If we choose to take action and not give up, no matter how many setbacks we encounter in pursuit of something wonderful, we are far more likely to get something wonderful. Either way, we are likely to live the life we deserve, good or bad


An employee's happiness is NOT the responsibility of their employer

Sure some employers recognize that the happier their employees, the more loyal, dedicated, and engaged they are...

But I don't know of any employment law dictating that employers are obligated to ensure their employees are happy at work.

Nor is it the responsibility of one's coworkers, manager, or customers.

Only one person is responsible for ensuring you are content in whatever professional endeavor you pursue, andthat is you.

So, if you are miserable at work...WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

Learn more about how the Law of Cooperative Action could transform your professional and personal success by clicking below.