A good leader is highly attuned to their organization’s culture. And because it is a leader’s responsibility to model the language of accountability, responsibility, and taking authority for our actions and results, those employees who do not fit this behavior tend to challenge us the most.
These employees have a victim mentality. This mentality can be incredibly damaging for team morale and often creates a toxic work environment. But there is a way to change this mentality: The Victim-Leader PRIME. This PRIME says that leaders should listen for when groups start to discuss things outside of their control and use them as excuses for why they are not more effective employees. When this happens, leaders should guide them back to focusing on that which they can affect.
Signs of a Victim Mentality Among Employees
Before we dive into important insight from the Victim-Leader PRIME, let’s start with the signs of victim mentality. If a team member regularly displays some or all of the following behaviors, it’s possible that he or she may have a victim mentality:
- They often blame others for their problems.
- They refuse to accept responsibility for their own problems.
- They expect others to feel sorry for them.
- They focus on their problems and complain about them without making efforts to solve any issues.
- They turn down fun work activities, and never admit to enjoying themselves.
- They assume that most of their colleagues have negative intentions towards them.
- They imply that other people have better or easier tasks and can therefore perform better.
- They tend to reject constructive feedback or performance assessments.
How to Put a Stop to Victim Mentality and Empower Your Employees
Transforming a victim mentality into a leader mentality starts with active listening from the leaders within your organization (upper-level managers, board members, etc.). The Victim-Leader PRIME states that great leaders pay close attention to which way a group is headed by listening closely to the tone and direction of their team’s conversations. Because of this, great leaders are quick to identify when team members start complaining about things they cannot affect and blaming others for their problems.
When you notice a team or employee playing the victim, this behavior can be stopped by encouraging them to engage in discussions that focus on what the person can control. These conversations will show the individual that they are in fact empowered to make change, which will open the door for the employee to accept responsibility while eliminating the opportunity to blame others for their problems.
As an example, consider a team member failing to complete an important, time-sensitive report by the requested due date and then blaming another department for not providing the data needed to complete the report. Blaming another person or group does nothing to remedy the situation. Instead, encourage the team member to communicate challenges as they are encountered instead of waiting until the report is due. Ask them how they could work around the issues that are being raised in order to keep moving toward their goal. The key is to maintain focus on what the individual or team can control and minimize effort spent outside of those areas.
A Self-Actualized Culture Takes Constant Work
Team mindsets change constantly. Because of this, it is important to note that effective leaders not only help victim-oriented groups or team members regain their power, but they also help empowered groups sustain theirs. Acknowledging difficulties, keeping teams oriented toward achievable solutions, and re-focusing complaints to potential actions that can be taken will all help keep empowered groups functioning at a high level as they encounter new challenges.
The Victim-Leader PRIME describes how managers can guide their team members back to focusing on that which they can affect.
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