The Victim at Work:

The Victim at Work: Are You Playing This Role in Your Workplace?

When a drama is going on in the workplace, there are usually three distinct roles being played. According to Dr. Stephen G. Karpman, this “drama triangle” places the victim at the bottom, below the other two roles of persecutor and rescuer.  You want to avoid playing the victim at work.

Once the drama gets going, we can actually slip back and forth among all three roles. However, we’ll fall most naturally into one primary role, based on the role we played in our childhood.

The Persecutor

The persecutor goes on the offensive, looking to blame, shame and control. She is fiercely attached to her own agenda and is motivated only by the desire to get exactly what she wants.

The Rescuer

The rescuer also goes on the offensive, jumping in to solve problems for other people whether or not it is appropriate or requested. He is motivated by the desire to keep everyone else happy and to feel important and needed.

The Victim

The victim goes on the defensive, relinquishing all responsibility and soliciting sympathy for whatever he feels has been done to him. He is motivated by the desire to be taken care of and understood.

Playing any of these roles will inhibit your success in the workplace, yet it is often the victim who has the most trouble finding and keeping a job.

In the short-term, the victim is popular at work—after all, the persecutor needs someone to attack and the rescuer needs someone to save.

But in the long-term, the character traits that show up when you’re playing the victim are not particularly beneficial or attractive in the workplace. Quite the contrary, since victims are perceived as weak, spineless, submissive and flaky.

The good news is that you can make conscious choices to step outside of this drama triangle and conduct yourself professionally. The first step is to watch for these signs of victim mentality in your thoughts and words:

  • I’ll never get all of this done!victim
  • This is so unfair!
  • I hate my job/life/self.
  • I don’t deserve this.
  • Why is this happening to me?
  • It’s not my fault that…

When you hear your “inner victim,” stop and think about what you do have control over in this moment, things like:

The words you use. Before you speak, consider the impression your words will make if you complain or whine. Additionally, note that sometimes victims jump back and forth between playing the victim and playing the persecutor. Usually it’s an unconscious reaction and an attempt to lash out at whomever you think is persecuting you. It could show up here as gossip.

The thoughts you focus on. When you believe and focus on the victim thoughts that pop into your head, you keep the drama triangle in motion. If you can notice the thoughts but choose other ones instead, you can leave the drama behind. Try, “I have a choice here,” “I am a valuable member of this team,” or “I am in charge of having a great life.”

The actions you take. If you’re slipping into the victim role in your actions, it could show up as procrastination, purposefully not doing the thing you resent being asked to do. Or, your victim thoughts can paralyze you into self-doubt and inaction. Think before agreeing to do something. Remember that yes and no are not the only responses to a request—you can negotiate what you agree to do, and by when. Once you’ve agreed to do something—do it. Nothing feels better than doing what you said you would do.  Moving away from the victim role will feel very empowering.

No matter what has happened up to this point, you have a choice to make in this moment. And every choice has a consequence. When you choose to take on the role of a professional, you take responsibility for your words, thoughts, actions and choices—and leave the victim behind.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

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