Facing change can lead to some people playing the victim – refusing to engage, pointing out the problems in the plans, and not joining in with the rest of the team.
In our latest podcast, Rob and Paul discuss why change can often bring out victim behaviour – and what managers can do to tackle that response.
Playing the victim is the path of least resistance: you get attention for being the victim without having to do anything, and it doesn’t hold the associated risks of failure if you try something new.
Sometimes, victims seek out fellow victims to support their view and reinforce their position. They will collude to come up with reasons why the change is negative or won’t work.
In a situation where there are several victims, the group will often begin to dwindle as individuals get on board with change, and those remaining begin to wonder if they are in the wrong. One person is often the most dedicated victim and can be so negative that it puts others off agreeing with them even if they were feeling slightly negative.
Yet many victims don’t realise they’re doing it until they have done the same thing several times, or perhaps hear it coming from someone else. So often, victim behaviour needs to be challenged by an external factor.
How can you as a manager help these people?
Behaviour and language are key: you help people to understand the consequences of them continuing with their current pattern. Ask them how long they want to continue as they are and what they think is likely to happen as a result. For many people, this is all that’s needed for them to realise what they are doing and move on.
Ask questions of the victim to find out if they are deeply held beliefs or they’re just releasing frustration. If they fundamentally believe that things won’t work out, you have a bigger issue to address.
Tackle this behaviour by being consistent. Offer help to everyone involved in the change so they can move through the stages required as easily as possible. Make it clear that this support is on offer to the victim as well, showing that while they choose not to take part, they are refusing the help that everyone else is receiving.
The victim will either join in when they are ready, or they will eventually decide they are not going to engage at all and will remove themselves from that situation.