Avoid the “Victim” Mentality

We have all worked around people who spend the majority of the time complaining about their job, boss and overall life. This person drains positive energy out of the workplace because they’re always having some variation of a “bad” day. Consequently, positive people have to go out of their way to avoid these types because the negative energy can be toxic. It is a certainty that we will all face difficult times. But the good news is we can control our attitude and how we approach those challenges in life and work. Through strength and courage we can overcome obstacles while gaining credibility and support from the people around us.

You can spot those classic “victim” types from a mile away. They’re those co-workers who, eternally angry, stressed, or mopey, are always saying things like, “I hate my boss,” “This place sucks,” “I can’t ever do this or that,” “It’s not my fault!” and “I don’t know how my life ever got this way.” These types of folks are trapped in a cycle in which they can’t see their contribution to any of their difficulties in life. It’s very difficult (if not impossible) for them to break that cycle, take control and change their course for the better.

However, it’s part of good leadership to learn how to recognize and manage the challenges that these “victims” bring to the workplace. Here are some related pointers:

Don’t get trapped. Leaders walk a fine line between empathizing with people when they’re having troubles and playing the role of the constant counselor. They have to avoid getting drawn into the problems and any associated repetitive patterns of negativity. They must also ensure that these offenders don’t suck other staff members into their doom and gloom. Victims like reactions and, considering that people tend to be reactionary in nature, reacting to the same problems, time and time again, can be a dangerous, slippery slope that can create a thicket of issues. Watch out for the trap.

Give feedback. Many times, people who wear the hat of the “victim” don’t have a clue how miserable they sound, how demoralizing they are to the workplace culture, and how detrimental they are to an organization’s productivity. As the leader, you’ve got to address this sensitive topic with them and be honest. “I really like you, but I have to tell you that this is how you’re coming across as a team member…” is a good way to start the conversation. Have a few, documented examples that clearly show the validity of your observation, so it’s not a “he said/she said” debate. Plan how the conversation should go, so you’ve at least got an idea of what you want to say and accomplish.

Replace helplessness with hope. There’s a “victim” within all of us. To some degree or another, we all struggle with those feelings of helplessness, but we all deal with those effectively to varying degrees. Your leadership should reflect a strong spirit of “hope” no matter the difficulty of situation. Then expect that same attitude and approach to any said challenges from ALL your team members — including the “negative” ones — as well.

Can you fire someone for being too “negative”?

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