Stop being a lightning rod

Are you in a company or corporation and feel like you have a bulls-eye pinned to your forehead? Are you in a position of attracting undue negative attention from your boss and coworkers? Do you wonder “How did this happen? It’s never happened to me before. Why ME? Why now?”

If this sounds like something you’re experiencing, even though it may not make logical sense let me describe what may be going on and give you 10 Tips to “Ground” Your Lightning Rod Aspects.
But first, let me explain the basic dynamics that are going on in such a dysfunctional system.

The Analogy of a Dysfunctional Family

In dysfunctional families, there is a concept called the IP or Identified Patient. This is the one family member who is like a “sponge” for the family negativity—secrets, things unspoken, co-dependency, addictions, lies, and so on—all the dysfunction. That “elephant-in-the-room” stuff that nobody talks about in dysfunctional systems. Thus it stays dysfunctional and people act “as if” it’s normal—or even defend it.

Like a Sponge:

The Identified Patient often soaks up all the negativity and feelings in a family. It’s confusing and sometimes they feel they really are bad, wrong, or embody the characteristics assigned to them. So subconsciously they take on the dysfunction and acts it out until they become conscious of the dynamic and hopefully get support and coaching to change their participation in the system. Which can be an uphill battle.

Becoming a Scapegoat:

The IP becomes identified as The Problem (the addict, the black sheep, the one who doesn’t follow the rules or keep the secrets, etc.). Rather than the system being the problem, the IP becomes the scapegoat. Is thought of as wayward, a problem child, a bad person. They are seen as dysfunctional by the family, instead of the family facing their own dysfunction.


Okay, you say, so that’s a family. Now, what about my company or department dysfunction?

Company Dysfunction and Who Suffers?

When there is dysfunction in a company, corporation, or department, people often interact much like they do in dysfunctional families. Often the leadership or team—consciously or unconsciously—single one person out, or one person at a time will be the brunt of negative attention.

  1. They become the sponge or scapegoat for the dysfunction at higher levels in the corporation, company, or department.
  2. They are a sponge because they soak up the negativity.
  3. They become the brunt or focus of negativity.

In business, I call this The “Lightning Rod” Syndrome.

In a toxic work environment employees may be picked out to be bullied.

In a toxic work environment employees may be picked out to be bullied. Having outside support to survive and coaching to transition to a better job is important.

Are You A Lightning Rod for Negativity?

If you’re unhappy in your work environment, you may identify yourself among The Lightening Rod numbers. If so, you will need to practice the tips below to decreasing your Lightning Rod potential. And, you may need to start looking for a new job.

In my experience, even top-notch professionals can become Lightning Rods for Negativity. The ones I’ve coached are highly professional with impeccable ethics and high standards. Sometimes such “good” attracts negative attacks. You may try even harder to be even better at your job. But to no avail. Oftentimes this makes the negative attention even worse.

This causes you even more anxiety because every positive professional, business, and leadership development skill you’ve ever implemented seems to backfire in this department or company.

That’s because the system is dysfunctional – extremely unsupportive (toxic and probably abusive) work environment or there’s a superior whose actions are allowed or condoned.

And, sadly to say—you have been singled out. You’ve become a Lightning Rod for negativity.

Here’s what you need to do.


Coaching supporth when you are in a toxic work environment

Reach out for coaching support when you are in a toxic work environment or work for a narcissistic boss.

10 Tips to “Ground” Your Lightning Rod Aspects

These suggestions may feel counter-intuitive, but they are recommended specifically for THIS situation you are in right now. They are recommended because in THIS environment your wonderful qualities are drawing negative attention. They are not serving you in the here and now. I am not saying you’ve done anything wrong or are bad. These suggestions are made to protect you from further abuse.

If you are a Lightning Rod you’ve got to pull back and tone it down. Don’t be such a shiny, bright professional gal. You don’t want to keep getting hit by Lightning bolts! At least not in this environment. You need a plan to go where you are valued and appreciated. Of course, I am implying that you should get yourself into a better situation, a better environment as soon as you can!

But in the meantime:

  1. Behave Professionally. This is a given and you would do this anyway, but just a reminder because you may be getting worn down.
  2. Don’t Try Too Hard. Do not overdo or over-compensate. You are probably working at a 165% level, so do good work at the 110% level, but do not force any standards that no one else follows. You can follow them if absolutely necessary, but do not champion or fight any causes that are bringing you negative attention beyond what is absolutely vital to your job or your ethics.
  3. Fit In Where You Can. Fit in where you can, or at least try not to stand out until you get out. I’m not saying to go against your values, just wear a blue suit if everyone wears blue suits. Keep your office door open if everyone keeps their office door open.
  4. Stop Being Surprised. This may or may not be your first experience of being treated this way, but if you feel or act shocked every time someone mistreats you it is not serving you well. Face reality. Create some distance and see this for what it is—it’s a dysfunctional, toxic or abusive work environment or person. It is not going to change and you may need to get out. In the meantime face the facts so you can take care of yourself.
  5. Behave “As If.” Practice sitting up straight, walking tall (without defiance or aggression.) Behave “as if” you are calm and confident, even if you do not feel it.  Leave your “little kid” at home and only take your “adult Self” to work. Keep your energy field “housecleaned.” Wash your hands or walk around the block as a cleansing ritual. Breathe deeply for 2 minutes periodically throughout your day. Drink water frequently versus coffee. It’s calming. Exercise. Eat healthy foods. Get enough sleep. Play with people you love to stay sane. Do not overshop, overdrink, or do other things you would not normally do.
  6. Be Prepared. If attacked, demeaned, or negated in meetings sit up straight, do not avoid eye contact, but do not draw undue attention to yourself. Be prepared to answer but not engage. Start the interaction only if it is possible to ask what the superior would like to hear about. Typically this would be in phone meetings where you are usually put on the spot and maybe over talk or over give out of anxiety.
  7. Stay “Neutral.” This is a non-dramatic, non-anxious non-judgmental stance. Stay neutral because it will help keep your head and your heart clear on a day-to-day basis and it will help you look at options to get out of this department or this company if you need to do so.
  8. Reality checks. Where possible turn to friends, your mate, or preferably other people in your field who have had similar experiences or know about the culture or company your work in. They may be able to offer feedback and support.
  9. Find a Coach and possibly a Mentor who understand workplace toxicity, narcissistic bosses, and bullying. A mentor from another company can advise you on how to respond to situations in your present position. This relationship needs to be confidential, but a good mentor may often know about the culture you are in and be able to advise. A career coach familiar with the behavior would be even better and more objective. An expert coach can help you take the next step in finding a better position.
  10. Create a Plan for Your Future. Spend some time assessing the pros and cons of staying or going. Get support and expert advice to walk toward a more positive future.


Additional Resources for Toxic Business Help


Resources to Help Reflect on Creating a New Career Path


I hope these articles and resources have been helpful to you. If you are highly triggered, I recommend you reach out to a good therapist for support and to learn ways to manage your symptoms. If you need a referral please go to my calendar here and sign up for a 15-minute time slot. In the space provided, indicate that you are looking for a therapy referral. I will see if I can be of help.

Then when you are ready to explore career transition coaching, you may reach out for a Complimentary Conversation to explore your needs and how we might work together.

Contact Dr. Jan for a Complimentary call to discuss your needs here.


Dr. Jan Hoistad