The Workplace Victim
Workplace victims are prevalent and can add drama, frustration, and negativity to the place of employment. The purpose of this article is to further examine the victim mentality in the workplace.
Unfortunately, many of our coworkers and colleagues are self-made victims who have the 'woe is me' outlook on life. According to Phin (2012), there can be no doubt that today's workplace is overrun with a victim mentality. This way of thinking is negative and can be detrimental to others who must come into contact with workplace victims.
The typical workplace victim has a mentality that leads him or her to avoid taking personal responsibility for any negative issues that arise at work. These individuals tend to view themselves as victims of workplaces where coworkers, supervisors, managers, and even patients are out to get them. They refuse to believe that they've ever done anything wrong, and prefer to blame other people or events for their shortcomings and lackluster job performance.
For instance, if the unit manager issues a verbal written warning to a nurse with a victim mentality for accruing multiple unexcused tardies over the past three months, instead of being accountable and making a better effort to report to work on time, the employee takes more comfort in believing that the manager wants to sabotage her work record. The patient care technician who portrays himself as a victim will attribute a broken Hoyer lift to poor timing and bad luck, and would rather feel sorry for himself than realize that the piece of equipment is not working due to mechanical failure.
Another classic example is the nurse who has been terminated from five jobs in less than two years. Rather than examine personal reasons for her inability to keep a job or seeing where she might have gone wrong, she criticizes every former coworker and manager with whom she's encountered. In a nutshell, workplace victims feel that they cannot control their own outcomes. This thought process hinders personal and professional development and pushes others away.
Are there any effective techniques on handling these self-proclaimed victims of the workplace? The people who are forced to work with workplace victims can certainly step in with a creative solution. According to Stephson (2012), your job as supervisor or coworker is to try to get the victim to develop a larger work-related intention, goal, or desired outcome that energizes them. Get them to focus on educational tasks, acquiring new skills, or enacting changes to the issues that bother them. Problems will still arise, of course, but if the employee can focus on being a creator who is moving, however slowly, in a positive direction, that is a far different mindset than that of the victim (Stephson, 2012).
Although the employee with a victim mentality can add a sense of drama and frustration to the workplace, he or she can be helped. Remember to be patient, take responsibility for your own actions, and do not allow the victim's negativity to rub off on you. Good luck!Last edit by Joe V on Aug 19, '12
About TheCommuter, BSN, RN Moderator
TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.
Joined: Feb '05; Posts: 38,035; Likes: 69,253
CRRN, now a case management RN; from US
Specialty: 11 year(s) of experience in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psychAug 19, '12Victim is something I never want to be. I've had a lot of bad things happen to me in the past 5 months, such as wrongfully being slandered as a student nurse and getting screwed out of a promised RN position because of it. But I'm not going to think of myself as a victim. Any effort I spend wallowing in self pity is not going to improve myself.Aug 19, '12I've got a coworker at the moment who enjoys screaming at the top of her lungs and having a general hissy fit, every time someone brings *anything* to her attention. Most epic pity party ever.
It's getting old... management is rather wishy-washy about it and I wish they'd deal with it.Aug 19, '12Quote from TheCommuterThis is the most interesting one, since generally tardiness is purely objective. The clock does not play favorites, and either you're on time or you're not. And yet, still, some people think they're being victimized.For instance, if the unit manager issues a verbal written warning to a nurse with a victim mentality for accruing multiple unexcused tardies over the past three months, instead of being accountable and making a better effort to report to work on time, the employee takes more comfort in believing that the manager wants to sabotage her work record.
In many cases it's more than a disagreeable personality quirk. It's a symptom of a personality disorder, generally of the paranoid and histrionic variety.Aug 19, '12Great article! I think a lot of it has to do with the psychological concept of “locus of control”. People with an internal locus of control tend to see themselves as having control over outcomes, whereas people with an external locus of control attribute outcomes to forces beyond their control. People aren’t usually 100% internal or external; there is a continuum. The example of the nurse who lost 5 jobs – definitely an extreme leaning towards external locus of control! I am bored, so I googled a “how to” resource for those in similar situations seeking change: Locus of Control: How To Develop An Internal Locus of ControlAug 19, '12Quote from sbruc002That is sometimes manifested in obsession over one conspiracy theory after another, where you have no control over anything. You're like a piece of seaweed pushed around by the tides and waves. You are not responsible for any of your failures. If it's not the Illuminati, it's your fellow workers or patients who are out to get you.People with an internal locus of control tend to see themselves as having control over outcomes, whereas people with an external locus of control attribute outcomes to forces beyond their control.Aug 19, '12Quote from Cold StethoscopeOk, I'll be honest. I had to google Illuminati. I'm glad I did b/c now I can stop wondering who is controlling/manipulating me.If it's not the Illuminati, it's your fellow workers or patients who are out to get you.Aug 19, '12Interesting article. We see so many posts these days from posters who see themselves as being wronged by their managers and coworkers without ever acknowledging any fault of their own. I do not understand how someone who has lost five jobs in two years can FAIL to understand that they've played a part in their own misfortune, yet we see them posting on here frequently. There must be some sort of enabling pathology that explains how dozens of posters will immediately jump in and tell them to "keep their chin up" and "I know you're a great nurse" despite the utter lack of evidence for the "great nurse" part. Perhaps more helpful advice would be to "take some time to understand how you've contributed to your "bad luck.""Aug 19, '12I'm sorry but some people are just total bleeps, just because someone says they are doesn't mean their being " victims".Aug 19, '12Quote from CuppieI'm not sure I understand this comment. Could you elucidate please?I'm sorry but some people are just total bleeps, just because someone says they are doesn't mean their being " victims".Aug 19, '12man I've had relationships just like whats being described. It's never the persons fault, they are a victim of circumstance.
Question I have been wondering (because I work with many like this) how DO you deal with them? Is there a way to get them to actually take accountability?Aug 19, '12Quote from DezyI do not think you can get them to accept responsibility.man I've had relationships just like whats being described. It's never the persons fault, they are a victim of circumstance.
Question I have been wondering (because I work with many like this) how DO you deal with them? Is there a way to get them to actually take accountability?
You can only make sure that you are able to do your job.
Make sure you cover your self so that your supervisors never think you didn't do your job, even if it means doing a little more work. Cover yourself and your interests. That must be your only interest.
Perhaps some others have more tips on dealing with people with a victim mentality at work,Aug 19, '12This article describes a nurse I work with completely. Every time they are scheduled, there is ALWAYS drama...personal drama, patient related drama, co-worker drama. Of course, it's never their fault. It gets very old and draining to constantly have to listen, deal with this. I sincerely have got to the point that I try to avoid working the same shifts with this person.
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