It’s not you. It’s them.

I was like you.



Baffled that people couldn’t see the obvious solutions to problems.

Co-workers would eventually come to the same conclusion that my team had shared with them—but, it was after a never ending battle to get them to listen.

My friend Jason would hear the same idea pouring from the lips of our bosses, months later. He would roll his eyes and mumble, “Thanks for catching up folks”.

It was a great way to describe how we felt—unvalued for our thinking.

My friend, Dr. Janice Presser, was listening to my stories of exasperation caused by colleagues who weren’t applying critical thinking to problems. That is when she said something that completely transformed my life.

She said:

It’s not you. It’s them.

You know what? She was right.

The business books tell you that it is your fault if you aren’t getting through.

That you have to do a thorough examination of your thoughts and behaviors to find your flaws—because these are the reasons for your challenges at work.

What you are not told, is there is the other side of the coin, where people are working toward their own ends—which may have nothing to do with collaborating or even listening to your ideas.

They have other motivations and objectives that have nothing to do with collaboration to serve the business. They are serving themselves in some way. For instance, it might be that the person is envious of your smarts and needs you to stay under his thumb.

What are you supposed to do about THAT?

First you have to transform your mindset to accept reality.

Things are not going to change

These people are NOT wired like you.  AT ALL. They will never think like you.

People do not change, and to have that expectation will let you down every time.

Nothing you say or do is likely going to change the people who create the dysfunction. People are patternable and they will repeat the same patterns over and over again. It’s human nature.

Stop using logic to understand people

There are times where we try to analyze the person in an attempt to get them to see why they are exhibiting such behaviors.

But, understanding the person doesn’t matter. You can’t control the thought patterns and behaviors of others at all.

Stop trying to use logic to understand where the people in the organization are coming from based on their decision making. It is just wasting your energy.

It is not you. It is them.

So what do you do?

You have a few options. Which make sense for you?:

  • Find a different job (not always an option)

  • Elevate the situation and prepare to be fired (not the outcome you are looking for)

  • Stop thinking about their lack of critical thinking, and sharpen your skill set for your next job—using internal training tools, youtube, or tuition reimbursement (To quote Leonidas from the movie 300, “Give them nothing, but take from them everything.”

  • Demonstrate your value outside of your department with the intention of attracting a new role internally.

The first two bullets are your options if you don’t change your mindset.

The last two bullets are if you do.

Educate yourself on their time and dime—and showcase your value to everyone else in the company. .

Simply knowing that it is them, and not you, is a load off of your back.

There there is power in knowing that you have options which are in your control.

~Natalie Neelan

Author of Rebel at Work: How to innovate and drive results when you aren’t the boss.

In my signature course, Smuggling Innovation, there is a much richer explanation of how your colleagues are wired, as well as how to navigate around them when you need to. Learn more here.