We all know somebody in the workplace who regularly presents themselves as ‘the victim’. An example of this might be where an employee is unsuccessful in applying for promotion and rather than accept personal responsibility e.g. my interview was poor, they will instead blame others for the outcome. ‘They’ve never liked me’. ‘They don’t appreciate all of my hard work’! In terms of their use of language other examples might appear in statements such as ‘this keeps happening to me’ which illustrates a denial of their own powerful ability to affect their own personal lived experience. A similar trait in some individuals is that of adopting a martyr perspective. This is where the person views themselves as a rescuer turned victim. Statements such as ‘I tried to defend our budget but they cut it anyway’ or ‘I advocated as hard as I could for the team but they just don’t understand’ are used.

Again, this demonstrates a failure on behalf of the person themselves to recognise their own level of responsibility and influence. Linked to this is the notion of self-esteem which is the belief and confidence in your own value. For victims and martyrs the attraction is that it at least in their own mind absolves them from taking personal responsibility. Temporary gratification but at what cost from a personal and organisational perspective? What each of these individuals fail to understand is that through adopting such a mindset they in fact reduce their capacity for making effective decisions, fail to take responsibility for their actions, reduce their options in terms of choice, negatively effect their own self-esteem and ultimately hold themselves back in terms of progression.

Self-belief is essential and impacts upon human performance across all settings. Where there is a lack of self-belief it not only negatively effects the individual but so too their colleagues and the organisation as a whole. This may be likened to ‘control error’ where clients on occasion view themselves as helpless and externally controlled or where individuals take total responsibility for others happiness.

As a professional coach the type of question that I might use in such cases in order to raise the awareness of a client where they view themselves as the ‘victim’ or ‘martyr’ is ‘when do you prefer to complain about problems rather than to talk about solutions’? Such a question immediately shifts the focus of the conversation from victim/martyr to responsible influencer. This is one possible option in terms of raising he awareness of the client and beginning a new journey with them. This first step in a new direction will lead them towards a destination where personal responsibility, individual choice and control, empowerment and autonomy are truly understood and appreciated.