Many of us can probably say we've been through a painful, harmful, or traumatic experience. Such events have the potential to shape our perspectives on the world around us, how we perceive the people in it, and how we perceive ourselves.
For many people, being a victim of harm or a crime is a reality, but identifying as a victim is not. A victim is someone who has been harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action. Victimhood, on the other hand, is the state of being a victim as well as identifying as a victim.
Recently, there has been intense debate about whether modern Western society has adopted a "victim culture." This rhetoric implies that everyone appears to identify as a victim these days, and that victimhood is frequently used as leverage or a power play. When grappling with our society's ever-changing power dynamics, where silenced voices are now finding megaphones, this conclusion can be seductive.
It is critical to distinguish between legitimate victimization and the use of victimhood to avoid responsibility and accountability. When arguments about the rise of victimhood are used to silence the voices of historically marginalized groups, this becomes problematic.
Using terms like "victim culture" misses the mark when it comes to addressing the root issues that victimhood can cause, because someone can be a victim of an event and still not identify with victimhood.
A victim mentality is defined as an acquired personality trait in which a person believes that only negative actions from others happen to them, despite contrary evidence to the contrary, and focusing on the lack of evidence that supports the perpetuation of the victim state is a key to understanding the negative impact of victimhood.
We are exposed to many contradictory messages of victimization and victimhood via social media platforms, which is why understanding "victim signaling," which is defined as a public and intentional expression of one's disadvantages, suffering, oppression, or personal limitations, is extremely beneficial.
Every system has advantages and disadvantages. In terms of victimhood, it has been argued that Western democracies are ideal environments for victim signalers to intentionally exploit their victimhood in order to obtain benefits normally afforded to victims. Among these advantages are, but are not limited to, justice, truth, economic compensation, independence, political representation, and martyrdom.
The victim obtains a higher moral standard than the perpetrator by being perceived as virtuous. People are more likely to sympathize with an elderly woman who was shot while working at a homeless shelter than with a man who was shot because he was a member of a gang.
In a second scenario, the concept of virtueous victim signaling would deprive him of the sympathy of others due to the implicit and explicit biases of gang members.
This is super brave to share. So sorry you went through that. Narcissistic abuse is really common in the workplace and not talked about enough.— Shanon M. Ingles 🇺🇦 (@EvilShanon) September 15, 2021
Virtue and victim-signaling are actually shown to be highly correlated with narcissism and psychopathy.https://t.co/joqSpE7unA
Virtuous victim signaling is a slippery slope in terms of determining what is morally favorable for others and thus deserving of sympathy or other material retaliation. When we refer to someone as a victim, we usually mean someone who has been harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other action or event. There must be a perpetrator of the harm where there is a victim.
According to victimologists Kieran McEvoy and Kirsten McConnachie, this simple definition ignores the fact that a person can be both a victim and a perpetrator of the same or a completely different act.
One common argument about victimhood is that because Western societies value equality, disparities in outcomes between people or groups are perceived as unfair. As a result, more people are feeling like they are victims.
This argument appears to fit well in a society where victimhood is confused with systemic victimization because there is an undercurrent of collective fear that many people who have never been victimized purposefully identify as victims and deceive others for personal gain.
If you act like a victim, you are likely to be treated as one.
While distinguishing victim from victimhood can be difficult, especially in a world where many exploit and deceive others by using victim signaling, psychologists in Israel have recently coined a behavioral predisposition known as Tendency for Interpersonal Victimhood (TIV) to better understand the characteristics of victimhood itself.
Researchers identify new personality construct, TIV, "Tendency for Interpersonal Victimhood"— Geoffrey Ingersoll (@GPIngersoll) December 10, 2020
The compulsion to be a victim, which involves four dimensions: moral elitism, a lack of empathy, the need for recognition, and rumination.https://t.co/cCPDDdha1F
While actual trauma and victimization can have negative psychological consequences, research indicates that developing a victimhood mindset can also be influenced by other factors such as context, socialization, and attachment style.
TIV has been linked to the anxious attachment style in particular, which is defined as "a persistent feeling that the self is a victim across different types of interpersonal relationships." It is a stable and consistent trait with four components, according to Gabay and her colleagues' initial research: moral elitism, a lack of empathy, a need for recognition, and rumination.
The notion that one perceives themselves to possess immaculate morality while the perpetrator is immoral.
An oblivious reaction to others and their suffering.
Victims' motivation to have their victimhood acknowledged and empathized with.
Focusing on distress and its causes and consequences rather than solutions.
Victimhood can have a negative impact on company culture, team dynamics, and productivity by distorting concepts like individual accountability and integrity. If a coworker is acting like a victim, talk to them about it right away. This will keep problems from worsening in the future.
According to research, job status has no effect on perceived victimization. Indeed, it is common at all levels of management within a company. According to Aquino and Bradfield, highly aggressive employees perceive themselves as victims more than less aggressive employees.
If you notice any of the above characteristics in a current coworker, there are ways to address and resolve the issue professionally.
The following strategies are intended for those in positions of authority:
If the individual provides an example of how their manager is the reason they are underperforming, put this to the test by assigning them to another manager or supervising the situation yourself (if possible).
Victimhood makes it difficult for people to work well in groups without blaming others.
For each objective, have them address what they need to do to meet the objectives and how they will do so. This will allow them to provide feedback and discuss any potential roadblocks. PIP objectives should be measurable and explicit.
This will be necessary to provide to HR if any future issues arise.
It is also important to note that if a coworker approaches you and claims that something is wrong, you must assume they are correct until proven otherwise.
As a manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that your team members perform well in their respective roles. You are not expected to be a therapist, and your strategy should center on effective performance management.
“Defeat is a state of mind; No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.
Victim labeling continues to walk the thin line between subjectivity and personal bias. As we learn more about things like the Tendency for Interpersonal Victimhood, which is a type of behavior, we can do more to stop the misuse of victimization.
Also, we need to think about why certain topics are talked about in public and who benefits from finding out about patterns of behavior like the TIV.
Is there enough evidence to suggest the TIV is causing massive disruptions to our society, and are these disruptions only perceived as negative for groups that currently possess majority power?
Please take a moment to self-reflect on the ways victimhood can show up in your behavior before attempting to discover it in someone else.