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How to keep people from throwing you under the bus

I’ve been thrown under the bus a few times in my career but a few weeks ago I couldn’t escape one. After speaking at a convention, the bus transporting conference attendees from the convention center to the hotel had a “minor malfunction.”

When it was time to unload, the door made a sound like it was opening but it was stuck and wouldn’t budge. Despite thirty minutes of concentrated effort from our friendly driver, a fellow passenger and a passing sanitation worker, the door wouldn’t open.

Ever been stuck in work drama with people who WILL throw you under the bus? In my book Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers, these Complainer types are called Prima Donnas.

Prima Donnas complain to get attention and be noticed. Do you know someone who:

  • Always strives for the spotlight?
  • Is quick to take credit, even for others’ work?
  • Never takes the blame and points fingers at others?
  • Behaves in an expressive and dramatic way (lots of loud sighs and sarcasm in his/her voice tone)?
  • Uses phrases like, “I always have to do everything around here!” and “Why wasn’t I informed?”
  • Spreads gossip and negative information about others?

We all have a little “Prima Donna” in us. I’m guilty of saying, “I am so tired of always having to do everything around here.” (Any parents reading?) However, Prima Donnas are chronic Complainers who won’t stop, even if you:

  • Describe why their behavior is too extreme. Prima Donnas are more concerned with being heard and seen, than being discreet. Telling them to “calm down” won’t work.
  • Put them on the spot. These are master performers who want to be in the spotlight. If you call them out in public, they get more attention and can attract a bigger audience.
  • Appeal to them rationally. Prima Donnas care more about being noticed than having logical conversations.

To keep Prima Donnas from throwing you under the bus and ruining your event, negotiate with them by:

  • Acknowledging their behavior. Let them know you have observed their complaining behavior. You might say, “I noticed in the meeting that you disagreed loudly with the new change.”
  • Not getting lost in their drama. Know that their exaggerated stories and over the top responses are attempts to divert you. Instead, remind them that positive recognition for a job well done is better than creating negative impressions.
  • Publicizing their role. Try to separate out functions or roles on projects and then tell others. That way Prima Donnas receive recognition for their individual work or lack of results. Even better, they are unable to blame or take undue credit for another team member’s performance.

To learn more, please take the free assessments “Spot Your Complainers Type” and “Are You Seen as a Complainer” to learn about the Complainer in your life and how to negotiate with him/her…and, if the Complainer might by you.

By the way, no one acted like a Prima Donna while negotiating our way out of the bus. We finally escaped by crawling through the wheel chair lift’s emergency exit. Not that I’m complaining about scaling down the side of a tall bus in heels and a nice suit, mind you.


About Linda Swindling, JD, CSP

recognized authority on negotiations, workplace issues and high stakes communication, Linda Swindling, is an author, media expert, a “recovering” employment attorney and a Certified Speaking Professional. The creator of the popular Passports to Success book series and author of the book Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers: How to Negotiate Work Drama to Get More Done, Linda speaks at conventions, associations and companies throughout the country. You can more about Linda at and