You can usually sense that somebody is in victim mode long before they speak. If their body language hasn’t already given them away, it becomes apparent as soon as they start talking. It is not what they say, but how they say it.
Eighteen months ago I noticed that there are three character archetypes operating within our workplaces; Victims, Villains and Heroes. Now more than ever we need more heroes at every level within our organisations and broader society.
We all slip into victim mode from time to time, and that’s ok. It’s ok so long as we notice it and quickly take action to move on, especially if we are a leader.
We can easily tell when someone else is in victim mode but it takes a high degree of self-awareness to spot it in ourselves. And self-awareness is one of the factors that separates the great leaders from the rest.
The Victim Mindset
Whilst the following traits may not apply equally to all, they are common indicators that someone, including us, may be in victim mode.
- Focussing on all the reasons why something cannot be done or why it will not work.
- Stuck in the past as opposed to focussing on the future.
- Appointing blame instead of taking control.
- Waiting for opportunities as opposed to creating opportunities.
- Using unhelpful language. “I can’t because…” “That will never work…”It’s my bosses/colleagues/partners fault.”
From Victim to Hero
The world needs more heroes now more than ever.
We need them in our businesses, schools, charities and communities.
Perhaps most of all, we need our politicians and world leaders to move away from being the victim or villain and become a truly heroic, values led leader.
We cannot afford to have individuals stuck in victim mode at any level within our organisations. But most critically, we cannot afford to have leaders stuck, or regularly slipping into this mental state.
It is clear that we want to be inspired by our leaders. To inspire is to leave everyone that you meet with more energy than when you met them. As leaders we must seek to be radiators as opposed to drains.
The science of Emotional Contagion tells us that moods spread like viruses; people regularly catch each other’s feelings, positive and negative. Negative emotional contagion has been shown to impact judgement, clarity of thinking, collaboration and the business decisions that are made.
Emotional Contagion has also been shown to have a greater impact in the morning. To put it another way, a leaders mood first thing in the morning will have a significant and lasting (positive or negative) impact upon their team throughout the entire day.
Here are three steps that I have been teaching my private leadership mentoring clients to help them successfully stay out of victim mode in order to positively impact their teams, organisations and families:
- Reflect. Adopt a daily journaling practice to reflect upon your leadership successes and areas of potential improvement. In reviewing the last 24 hours look for moments when you may have slipped into victim mode – partially or fully, momentarily or for a protracted period of time.
- Anticipate. Relying on will power to act or change in the moment rarely works. Consider when, where or who you are with when you slip into victim mode.
- Plan. Create a plan now, whilst you have energy and a full well of will power. This could involve managing your state, changing your behaviour, re-framing a situation or changing the way a meeting is structured, for example.
Whatever you do next, please remember that to lead is both a great privilege and a great responsibility.
The world needs more heroes.
You can be one of them.
Resources and References:
“Mission: Leadership – Lifting the Mask” by Ben Morton
Emotional Contagion – Elaine Hatfield, University of Hawaii & John T. Cacioppo, Ohio State University