It’s a fact of life, in news, that your work will be criticized a lot. It can be hard to take, but you must if you want to succeed in the business. However, there is one criticism you never want to be told: That you blame others for your mistakes. If you do, you will quickly be labeled a complainer, trouble maker and bad at your job. You cannot afford to have this label.
So what do you do to get around? For starters check out our recent “Take Ownership” article. Next, do not complain, about how the newsroom runs, to other staff members. I recognize this is a tough one, because news people are infamous for their after hours gripe sessions. It is VERY hard not to engage in the complaining and you may even feel alienated at first. But believe me, it is worth it to not get involved. Remember a key staffer will be at the gripe sessions: the newsroom snitch. Any complaints you make will be reported, and if you directly complain about how others are doing their jobs, and that it’s keeping you from doing yours, I guarantee that it doesn’t matter whether you have a valid point. You will be labeled a complainer who passes the buck. Also, there are many times your coworker is not your friend, says a few more generic complaints to get you rolling, then uses your words against you later in front of management. End result: You look like a complainer.
Blamers do not get as much leeway. They do not get a benefit of the doubt. If you are known for passing the buck, management will build a file on you quickly and work to get you fired or banished to the one shift no one wants, so that you hopefully just go away.
The final thing you can do to avoid this horrible label is this: When you have a complaint in your mind, think of proactive solutions you can help implement. That way if you get cornered at the station party or management backs you into a corner with an intense line of questioning, you can try and deviate the attention away from you and toward a solution that builds team. If my EP just disappeared when I had to make key decisions, and I got called on the carpet, instead of saying “Joe EP is never around to ask.” I would say, “I think I need to go over potential pitfalls in my rundown a little earlier when Joe EP is less busy.” This raises the issue that Joe EP is not around, without me calling the person out as slacking off. If management asks “Where is Joe EP?” say “Not sure, at that time of day. I just try to execute what I am asked as best I can.” Let the managers duke it out. Meantime you look like a solution finder instead of the dreaded blamer.
If you sense you are already labeled the complainer, stop your gripes immediately and have a clear the air session with your immediate supervisor. Look that person in the eye and say, “I am here to help this newsroom by doing my best each day. I want you to know I am glad I am here and will do all I can to help.” Then do what you are asked and keep your mouth shut. You can turn this reputation around as long as you do not let it linger long. It is worth the extra effort, remember being labeled a “complainer” can be a career killer in this ever competitive business.