How To Deal With Victim Mentality At Work

victim mentality at work

“This is so unfair. Why it always keeps happening to me?”

Have you heard something similar at your workplace?

Today we want to talk about motivation and how to deal with employees who can’t take responsibility. We’ve all met those people – in our personal lives and the work environment. It’s hard to be around and work alongside these individuals, their self-pity negative cloud is slowly taking over everything around it. It’s difficult but possible to improve the situation through connecting and creating a safe, but challenging space for the said employee.

“The problem that we have with a victim mentality is that we forget to see the blessings of the day. Because of this, our spirit is poisoned instead of nourished.” - Steve Maraboli

What Is Victim Mentality and Why It’s Dangerous

Victim mentality is a personality trait in which a person tends to recognize themselves as a victim of the negative actions of others. This person rarely takes responsibility for actions and outcomes, usually blaming others for their failings.

The negative impacts of victim mentality in the workplace are decreasing productivity, drop in morale, damaging trust and relationship. It’s a great foe on the way of your company’s success, but we have a few tips on how to carefully handle and motivate an employee with a victim mentality.

According to Prof. Kets de Vries research, individuals with victim mentality often shift to passive-aggressive tactics in their interactions. It’s a subtle and indirect way of getting what they want without expressing or acknowledging anger openly. They like to play “blame game” and are experts in not taking responsibility. 

Steps To Take

The first thing is to investigate the claims that the employee makes. There might be an objective reason for employee’s failures that is out of their control, and if there is – act based on that.

Let them know that they are in control of the situation. For example, give a solo project, so the responsibility lies only on the shoulders of the employee and there is no “wiggle” room for blaming someone else. In group projects remind the employee that it’s their responsibility to note red flags on potential drawbacks and act for prevention .

Mariia Molodkina, Head of Business Development at Caddyboo, gives an advice from her personal experience.

Take all the unnecessary tasks that are not priority from the employee. It ensures they stay focused on their priorities and there is no way to escape from the responsibility by using excuses like there is too many tasks and I do not know where to focus.” - Says Mariia.

Communication is the key to all, so set a clear and transparent setting for it. Often the reason why people with victim mentality behave this way is that they don’t feel seen or heard. Try to be more empathetic, give validation or shift the narrative to show an alternative view of the situation.  

You can also offer a help to employee by asking ‘What I can do to help you?’ because it is in your interest to fix the problem.” - Adds Mariia Molodkina. - “Maybe there is a simple action you can do to improve the situation; you just don’t know about it because the person is afraid to tell you. Giving an opportunity to speak up will allow the employee to feel more valuable and important to the company. It also encourages them to find a solution to the problem.”

Make sure to practice team-building exercises – it’s a great way to strengthen the bond between your employees. It is a good idea to encourage individuals as well. So, in a nutshell, boost the confidence of those around you!

Take Care Of Yourself

Being around the toxic person is exhausting – pay attention to your state of mind and do a quick check-up on your feelings from time to time. 

Amy Jen Su, author and co-founder of Paravis Partners, recommends bringing into your space a counterpart for that negative energy.  

“You need to surround yourself with people who bring you energy, lift you up, and who are positive forces.” – Says Su.

Set the limits for this behaviour and show your employee (or a colleague) what you will and will not take. If their behaviour is taking a toll on your performance - speak up in a safe and considerate way. Ask them to be more mindful about the teammates and the impact the “victim” might cause to them. 

Your boundaries are yours to protect.

A Road To Motivation

The last piece of advice we will give is to be aware of what’s happening around you. Be engaged in your team and its inner dynamics. Sometimes you can notice patterns of victim mentality before it starts to actively poison the morale of the team. The main sign, according to Dr. Isaiah Hankel, is an overreaction to a small problem.

These small bricks of action will lead to a built-up motivation in your employees and taking care of yourself will help you not to lose yours. 

Set a strong example: take responsibility for your life and actions, you are not a victim. You can choose how to react to things that happen to you and act accordingly. 

Tell us in the comments, did you have to deal with victim mentality in your employee or maybe in yourself?


Author: Ksenia Saburova

Caddyboo Team 

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