Updated: Mar 29
Business and technology are moving fast, the world is changing in all aspects of life practically under our feet and doesn’t wait for anyone to catch up. There is no doubt that things can be tough and seem out of our control. And of course, teams feel the brunt of it too at work and this can lead to a mentality of being in caught in a vicious circle of harnessing resentment, blaming others or events and being in a constant mode of overwhelm. It can be difficult to snap out of this victim mentality, which can impact the overall team culture and undermine business achievements.
Team managers are often left to their own devices to deal with these situations and don’t know how to approach this issue with their teams, since they acknowledge that there is a level of truth behind victimhood. So, they get the sense that they are between a rock and a hard place of feeling empathic towards the team member but also requiring to manage a healthy level of productivity. They feel that they are out of their depth holding team members accountable who are stuck in the victim mentality. Which means team managers can shy away from openly addressing any shortcomings because they fear to be rejected or to overstep boundaries. And this is where things can get stuck and in the way of progress.
The Empowering aspect of the Victim Archetype
As I have a background as an archetypal consultant, I am also very familiar with the Victim archetype which happens to be one of our core human archetypal behavioural patterns. Most of us typically refer to the victim from a negative connotation but being in the Victim position can also have a positive learning. Coming from an archetypal perspective the Victim archetype as with any other archetype has two sides to it, the light and the shadow or in other words a powerful side and a loss of power. Let me explain this a bit more. When I refer to power, I don’t mean it in a manipulative and controlling way, I mean an inner confidence that exudes taking ownership of one’s life.
In the book Human Being the author Ashkan Tashvir describes Empowerment in the following way:
‘Empowerment is living life from the viewpoint of being able to fulfil your intentions while enabling and inspiring others to fulfil theirs. Empowerment is how you relate to your power, capabilities and real or perceived limitations.
A healthy relationship with empowerment indicates that you mostly experience being able to take powerful actions towards fulfilling your intentions, purpose and goals while encouraging and inspiring others to fulfil theirs. …
An unhealthy relationship with empowerment indicates that you mostly experience being ineffective or stuck. You may often be unable to act towards fulfilling what matters to you or look beyond the immediate obstacles. You may feel frustration, apathy, resignation or despair. ….’
The Victim archetype can be summarised as a teacher of maintaining healthy boundaries and this should clarify the shadow and light side:
· letting people overstep boundaries and do nothing, or (lack of power)
· managing healthy boundaries with others (empowered)
It is not about trying to change other people or circumstances it is about how you respond to the situation. The core issue of the Victim is whether it is worth giving up your own sense of empowerment to avoid taking responsibility for your independence. Many people describe their Victim as their most confronting part of being and this is for a reason as it brings out the most vulnerable aspects of being a human. Being a Victim is a common fear with all of us.
The lessons associated with the Victim archetype ask that you evaluate your relationship to power, particularly in your interactions with people with whom you have control issues and need to construct personal boundaries. A ‘strong’ Victim is one that is clear on their boundaries and has practiced setting the expectations straight from the beginning of an interaction.
Some of my clients have experienced major setbacks and extreme challenges in life, so much though that it makes you wonder, can anyone bounce back from that? And indeed, they usually came a point in their life when they just wanted to move on and resume life. During this process they have learned to set strong boundaries and learned how to take ownership of their circumstances, so they could turn things around. That is not to say this wasn’t tough, as a matter of fact it has often challenged their life to the core and pushed them beyond what they thought they could handle.
From Victimhood to Empowerment
How as a team manager can you deal with this behaviour in your team? The first step is it to identify that you are dealing with victim behaviour and can do this by checking the following:
Catching others (or yourself) in a moment of self-pity
Making excuses to avoid taking ownership or responsibility
Blaming others or external circumstances to avoid moving on
Denying your contribution to an unfolding situation
You may want to listen for statements like: ‘This is not my fault that ...’ ‘There is nothing I can do about it.’ Or maybe you have caught yourself thinking something like: ‘I would be a much better leader if I had better people.’ These are statements pointing to victim mentality. And to be honest, these can come too easily, almost naturally to us and can seem to be so right at the time, and this is the trap. They are one way of perceiving a situation.
The word empowerment doesn’t naturally spring to mind when describing the Victim archetype and the behaviour generally associated with it. This is due to the fact, as mentioned earlier, that we usually associate a powerless behaviour with victimhood. So how can one move through the disempowered state of the victim to the empowered way of being? Here are some suggestions to gain a different more empowering perspective of a situation:
Teaching you to claim (or re-claim) your personal power,
Showing you that external world sets a scene but has limited control over how you feel and go about it,
Accepting ownership for what happens in your life (it doesn’t mean that it is your fault)
Discerning when you need manage your boundaries better
Most people think they are victim of what happened, but they are the victim of their perception of what happened. As a coach the biggest change I can facilitate for my clients is a change in perspective and I suppose that also rings true for a team manager.
To be able to do that you need to set some time aside to talk to your team member in an open and approachable setting and guide them through a process of opening up to the idea that there is something they can do without making them wrong. Then together you could brainstorm some action items that would be helpful to turn a situation around and put an action plan into place. Once the team members agreed to this plan and gets started you will notice a real shift in their way of being. Action is a good remedy to move people out of a stale mate situation.