Help an Employee Stop Living in “Victimhood”

Have you ever had an employee who couldn’t get themselves out of victim mode? If not, you probably will at some point in your career. And if you haven’t directly supervised a victim, you may recognize one in your office.

Think about the employee who constantly blames others, who always has an excuse for why things don’t get finished, who needs more help than others, who says they are doing the best they can but still has more messes to clean up than the rest of the team.

Perhaps the employee isn’t a bad employee; perhaps the employee simply lives in “victimhood.” People who live in victimhood are often characterized by these behaviors:

  • They never take responsibility for what happens.
  • They believe they are always right.
  • They are never accountable.
  • They constantly look for and feel entitled to sympathy from others.

Until that kind of employee addresses their attitude of being a victim, they will not truly take control and become a success.

Moving Out of Victimhood
So where does that leave you, the employer? First, ask yourself if this person has the talent they need to do the job and if so, would they and the organization benefit from them focusing on that talent. If the answer is yes, then call on your best communication skills and address the victim attitude head on. For more information on communication skills see the Kinetic Insights blog article at

Many times these employees are simply unaware that they live in victimhood. If you are really fortunate, they will recognize it during the first conversation you have. It’s more likely, however, that they will not. Embrace your patient side and be prepared to address the issue over many meetings and perhaps many months.

The best approach to helping an employee cross their personal chasm and move out of victimhood to become a productive employee is to create an empathetic environment for open, direct conversation. Tell the employee you have their best interests in mind and then be direct in your observations. Become your employee’s mirror by recounting specific examples of victim behavior.

Moving Toward Success
The employee’s first step toward more productive behavior is acknowledging that their choices create their victim status. In conversations going forward, consistently ask and remind the employee to focus discussion on their personal efforts — what are they responsible for and how did they create success.

Guiding them toward seeing how they have control over their own success or failure is invaluable for change. The constant refocusing of the employee’s attention to their own efforts has shown to be effective in redirecting victims toward normal acceptance of responsibility.

Additional Resources: Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell

Gail A. Froelicher, CEO and Founder of Kinetic Insights, is an experienced executive with a proven and consistent record of established and emerging technology businesses. Throughout her 30 year career she has been successful in key leadership positions by motivating and developing teams that stress quality, integrity and respect for associates and business partners. View full bio