October 2015

As much as we preach about leadership accountability in setting employees up to achieve greatness, the other side of that two way street is making sure you have employees who are willing to take ownership and get what they need to succeed, regardless of whether it may be difficult, time intensive, or unpopular. In this month's article, we're going to examine a crippling condition affecting organizations of all shapes and sizes - The Victim Virus.
All the best,

The Victim
You know the type....the "no-one-ever-explained-it-to me","nothing-will-ever-change", "I-prefer-a-pity-party-to-problem-solving", "the-environment-made-me-do-it" kind of person. They are masters at the blame game - dodge, deflect, defend, repeat. This mentality is most commonly associated with the habit of blaming everyone or everything else for what happens in their life. This is the self-fulfilling prophecy that says "I am the victim of this situation and am powerless to change it". 
The truth is, there are only very few situations where we are actually victims. More often we choose to perceive ourselves as powerless because it's easy to feel that people around us control our destiny. Instead of communicating our needs to supervisors, coworkers, or clients we back down, say nothing and surrender to the sense that we really can't make a difference in our work lives. Victim mentality is the opposite of identity theft. It is identity abdication - a life subtly given away, passed off as someone else's responsibility to create who we are, what we stand for, and the choices we make.
So how is the workplace affected by this attitude? We have chosen the term "Virus" for a reason; victims spread their attitudes like germs and they attract each other and multiply in the same way. 

All of us possess a victim tendency to some degree or another. The way to recognize it happening is through increased self-awareness. It is often subtle and others' bad behavior makes us feel justified to blame them.  When you are starting to feel powerless in a situation, ask yourself:
  • Did I set clear expectations for others and clearly communicate my desired outcome?
  • Could I have used my influence skills more instead of feeling caught in a power struggle?
  • How much time have I spent stewing over the issue instead of on ways to solve it?
  • Do I complain more than confront?
  • Do I rehearse and rationalize my reasons to myself to prove to others that it wasn't my fault?
  • Was there anything more I could have done to ensure the successful outcome of this situation?
How do you spot an active carrier of The Victim Virus on your team? They can be ferreted out by looking for the following behaviors:
~Do they demonstrate a habit of ignoring or pretending not to know about their accountability?
~Do they deny their responsibility and blame others for their predicament?
~Do they cite confusion as a reason for inaction?
~Do they wait for others to tell them what to do?
~Do they claim they can't do what is necessary to solve the problem?
~Do they wait to see if the situation will miraculously resolve itself?
The Victim Virus is an employee engagement killer. Employees who take ownership and accountability will not tolerate an environment where victim-hood is tolerated. Consequently, one of the most urgent and profitable leadership imperatives today is to find and eradicate The Victim Virus in every corner of the organization. Make it start with you. Make it start today.

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"More often we choose to perceive ourselves as powerless because it's easy to feel that people around us control our destiny."
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