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Your role in helping others

Workplaces everywhere are full of victims: people who hang on to a sense of having been wronged and act out their hurt through their daily actions and negative attitudes. Chances are you work with some of these people. They are most likely the ones dragging down your team.Everyone has the choice to remain a victim of broken trust or to take responsibility; see the lessons and opportunities, and create a different path to the future. When an individual remains a victim, they tend to blame their problems on someone else. In blaming others they abdicate responsibility, become apathetic, and eventually develop a sense of entitlement. In short, they can feel that they are ‘owed’ something, and expect someone else to make them feel better.

Identifying a victim

While victims of someone else’s behaviour may not be responsible for what caused the breach of trust or betrayal, they are responsible for how they react to the situation. It is generally easy to identify those who embrace the victim posture by their negative behaviour – they are often difficult to work with, manage, and even be around. Which of these columns best describes the behaviours of people you find frustrating?

Victim posture Responsible posture
Feels entitled Feels personally responsible
Apathetic Takes initiative
Carries grudges Constructively works through disagreements
Operates with hidden agendas Open and transparent
Closed to new ideas Curious and approachable
Acts out toward others Treats people with respect
Goes through the motions Empowers self and others
Engages in work-arounds Deals with people directly
Does not take any risks Takes appropriate risks
Gossips about others Speaks with good purpose
Makes judgments Seeks to understand

Helping the victim move on

Once you are able to identify a colleague’s victim posture, you can focus on helping the individual move past their pain to take responsibility. You can’t force someone to move from the victim posture to taking responsibility: that is a choice each individual has to make for himself. What you can do is provide the support and perspective necessary to begin this process. Most often, people don’t really want to stay locked in their pain, but they are unsure how to move forward. They don’t realise that part of the healing process involves taking responsibility for their reaction to the offending circumstance. The opportunity for them, for you, and for your entire team, lies in their conscious choice to take responsibility.

Below are five tips to help inspire others to take responsibility.

  1. Be present

Create a safe space to talk with them about what was ‘done to them’ and the impact or cost to them. You can help them acknowledge their feelings and see the bigger picture surrounding the situation. Give them an opportunity to re-think their options and see new possibilities.

  1. Be giving

Provide perspective. Make it clear that you come from a desire to help them and that you do not have a hidden agenda. Share your concern that they are holding themselves back and impacting others.

  1. Be proactive

Help them see actions they can take to rebound from setbacks and adversity. Be an example by sharing how you moved through distrust to taking responsibility. Tell them a few of the lessons you have learned along the way about yourself and about relationships.

  1. Be accountable

Hold yourself to the same standard as everyone else. Deliver on the promises you make, and take ownership for your choices and decisions without blaming others.

  1. Be strong

Exemplify an unmistakable commitment to facing reality, no matter how challenging that may be. Catch yourself when you might slip into the victim posture.

By taking responsibility for their reactions, your colleagues will start to regain a sense of confidence and competence. They will reclaim their professional lives and will become increasingly able to see possibility and opportunity rather than doom and gloom. A sense of willingness and collaboration will ultimately replace blaming and abdication.

What will you see then?

  • Initiative
  • Engagement
  • Honesty
  • Energy.
In short, you’ll see results.