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Who’s to blame? How to protect yourself from being a victim of the scapegoat game

by | Nov 5, 2021 | Public Relations

You can be sure that after the November 2 elections and the Atlanta Braves defeating the Houston Astros in the World Series, the top brass of the Democratic party and of many Major League teams are acting the same way that top executives of public relations companies do after losing a large account: They are playing the Who’s To Blame? The Scapegoat Game.

The reason you can be assured that these discussions are happenings as I write this is because even when management is to blame, they hardly ever sacrifice themselves

And in the few instances they do, they leave with a platinum or gold parachute—and the scapegoat with instructions on how to file for unemployment. Management always looks for individuals to blame and take the fall for something that wasn’t the scapegoat’s fault.

The New York Mets provide an excellent example of scapegoating. Before the beginning of the 2021 season, the Mets signed a bevy of free agents, only one of whom was considered a “star.” But they all failed, even the “star.” And the team didn’t come close to qualifying for the playoffs. The logical choice for blame would be the executives who signed these players. But a scapegoat was needed and Met manager Luis Rojas, who probably had little to no say about the players, was fired.

In the just concluded elections in which the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia won, the Democratic governor of New Jersey, who was expected to have an easy victory, ended up neck-in-neck with his GOP rival. Democratic strategists are finding many scapegoats for the party’s dismal showing: Sens. Manchin’s and Sinema’s delaying the vote on President Biden’s agenda, the refusal of the progressive caucus demanding that that Biden’s Build Back Better and infrastructure plans had to be voted on at the same time, the higher gasoline prices and the COVID situation.

But what these strategists ignore are their own shortcomings—not being able to read the voters correctly and advise the Democratic candidates to campaign on them.

Here are some steps to prevent yourself from being scapegoated:

  • Keep a daily written record of your conversations with your supervisors and clients.
  • If a client praises your work, ask that if it can be put in writing and sent to top management of the agency or to yourself.
  • If a positive letter from a client is only sent to you, distribute it to top management.
  • Never let others take credit for your ideas or work. If that happens, make certain that top management is informed. This might upset your immediate supervisor, but if you let others take credit for your good work, you’ll never be considered essential to the agency.
  • Never play the HR game and write plans on how you need to improve on evaluation forms. Your negative comments can come back to bite you.
  • If you are being scapegoated, let top management know ASAP via a detailed written report.
  • If you are a scapegoat victim and top management refuses to get involved, consult an employee labor lawyer from a respected law firm. It might cost you more than going to your “I know everything” corner attorney, but the advice on how to act will be worth it. And if need be, the agency will play much greater attention if your attorney is from a known respected law firm.

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Arthur Solomon
Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr@juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.

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