Victim Mentality….Another Leadership Road Hazard


Do you wait and hope it gets better?
Do you blame others?
Do you blame the current economic conditions on your business struggles?
Is your boss impossible and doesn’t listen?
Despite all your hard work does no one notice and acknowledge your contributions?
Are you underpaid, overworked, taken for granted?
Do people just not “get you”

If so you may be suffering from the age old syndrome…Victim Mentality. The good news is the condition isn’t fatal but can be debilitating if not quickly treated. The cure…Ultimate Responsibility. My wife and I are in constant debate about this one. Here’s an example:

I have a restaurant that is supervised by three Managers, a General Manager, and an Area Director. It’s a Friday night closing and the Assistant Manager on duty comes up short $500. One side of the argument says there is no way I can be held accountable for these lost funds right? The other side of the coin says, “Oh yeah, I am definitely responsible because I could have better systems or processes in place that would have prevented the loss of funds to begin with.” A stretch…..maybe?

I chose Ultimate Responsibility because I am in control of the situation and I can set the course for resolution even in the case above. If I chose the Victim Mentality and blame it on the other people in charge of the restaurant I lose all of my power. In life and business, you always have choices, you may not always like the choices you are given but you do have a choice. If your boss is impossible and doesn’t listen you have the choice to work with him/her and find a happy medium or you can always quit. I know, tough choices, but it is a choice, and you control it. That’s why the best leaders in the world chose Ultimate Responsibility.

- Don’t wait from someone else to solve your problems, solve them yourself!
- Don’t blame your declining sales on anything but your own business short comings. Go talk to your guests and give them an experience they have to come back for time and time again.
- Don’t wait and hope it gets better, go do something about it.
- Don’t worry about issues you can’t control, only work on things you can control.
- Call out victims in your organization and challenge them to take full responsibility.

Have you ever fallen into the victim trap?

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Tags: Victim, leadership, responsible

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Comment by Steve Totillo on August 2, 2008 at 7:46pm
I expected no different answer from you Andy. That's why I love you man!
Comment by Andy Swingley on July 31, 2008 at 8:46pm
Essentially they both have a victim mentality going on....

Manager number one gets a swift boot up the you know what.....arrogant #$%^&*!

Manager number two....Hey it is the restaurant business and stuff happens.....roads close, people leave. Step out of the corportate mindset for a minute and assume every restaurant is a free standing independant restaurant. If your paycheck solely was produced from your blocked entrance you would be standing on City Hall's front step, you would be catering, you would be standing out on the street bringing people in, do everything in your survivor mentality to keep the paycheck coming in, heck you might have even reduced your manager staff by one to cope with the blocked street. There are no magical pots of money in chain restaurants or independants - if you can't get people in the door, you can't stay in business. If you can't afford to train an hourly supervisor because there isn't any money, there just isn't any money. A leader who is not a victim will find another way. Leaders find ways to succeed no matter what the circumstance, victims find ways to fail and count on others to find solutions or money to help them during "tough" situations.

You either are a victim or you aren't. Help manager number 2 produce some more ideas and get in there in fight for the guests. Both of your lives depend on it. That will make everyone a leader and no one a victim.

I never talk about what I can't control (the blocked entrance, missing managers, spousal happiness), I only talk about what I can control - great food, great service, and an overwhelming passion to get guests in the door WHATEVER it takes even if I have to go somewhere else to serve them, WHATEVER it takes.
Comment by Christine Jacques on July 31, 2008 at 1:20pm
Nice examples, Steve! I would say that the defining difference between the two is the fact that manager 2 seems like he is looking for solutions. Circumstances don't always go our way, but seeking out solutions, and putting the sweat equity into the situation as well, would go a long way to making manager 2 not considered a victim, in my opinion.
Comment by Steve Totillo on July 31, 2008 at 9:43am
What I am asking is as a leader of people, how do I tell the difference between an employee who is making excuses for lackluster performance, and an employee who has legitimate reasons for underperforming.

As a quick example, say I am a multi unit manager, and have two stores that are similar in sales, guest counts, bottom line profit etc..., and both are going through a period of declining sales and profit.

The manager in unit 1 has a full management staff, two days off a week, but tells me that his sales are dropping because of the economy, gas prices, not to mention the "Lazy" assistant manager he has. He enjoys a great quality of life, but is making less bonus and tells me he is struggling financially and needs a raise.

The manager of unit 2 is short a manager, has construction blocking the front entrance, is working his day off to catch up, and is earning less money. His quality of life is declining, and his wife is not a happy camper. He started to train an hourly supervisor to releive the pressure on the management team, but was told to put that on hold until his bottom line improved. He is visibly frustrated when I discuss his situation.

As their leader, how do I not lump them together and say they both have a victim mentality?

To me, manager 1 has a victim mentality, and manager 2 has a victim reality.

Does this clarify my question?
Comment by Christine Jacques on July 31, 2008 at 5:19am
Would "victim reality" be akin to "justifiably a victim," or "victim of circumstance"? I'm just not sure I can swallow that. It takes all my power away...

Some clarification would help...
Comment by Andy Swingley on July 31, 2008 at 2:04am
I do not know what Victim Reality means? In my initial thoughts if you are being a victim to an issue there is no reality.....

Give me more information and I will respond when I better understand your point. Maybe you could give me an example
Comment by Steve Totillo on July 30, 2008 at 9:12pm
Andy, just to play Devil's Advocate, I have to ask where your personal line is drawn between Victim Mentality and Victim Reality, and how do you objectively determine the difference with your managers?
Comment by Mark James on July 30, 2008 at 4:59pm
Andy great post. I would like to refer back to Christine jacques comment as said "It's definitely not reinforced with this generation, as a rule. Why is it that society is more apt to provide excuses than solutions? What a great question! As a leader i run into this dilema a lot i find myself just asking why is it so hard to "Just be Great" And taking an recipicating feedback to better yourself and to learn has never fully been adapted as part of this generations culture! We as kids had strong role models and great heads up leadership. Now a days you turn on the t.v and hear how another top 10 companies leaders have taken the money and ran. People honestly believe they have to defend themselves at all times in this day and age. It used to be if your boss said jump you would say how high! Now we are stuck with why are we jumping? Why don't you jump? I can't jump until i get paid to jump! The question is simply answered by asking the person why would i ask you to jump if i did not intend a purpose. We spend way to much time focusing on explaning our vision instead of just going to get it!! This generation does not get the reinforcement it needs to be lead by leaders. Don't get me wrong sometimes things need explained and actions need justified it is all part of "TRUST". You have to trust that leadership always has your best intrest in mind. I recently took a class to help get me more organized."yes i paid money for this" the only good thing that ever came from it was when we were told to write down everything that we had done during the day and it could not be somethng that could be maked off as completed or done! So get this i ended up with COACH, TEACH, INSPECT , ENFORCE on my paper...... I guess i need to "TRUST" my leaders and just do it! I asked for a refund and was told sorry it could be marked as done!!
Comment by restaurantdotorg on July 30, 2008 at 1:02pm
Good points, everyone. Is it really any surprise in our litigation-happy society that a victim mentality is the norm these days? Let's count on our resilient restaurant industry to move on and move up!
Comment by Patti on July 30, 2008 at 1:00pm
Andy - Great article - I have a couple of friends that are living their everyday lives under the "Victim Mentality". I being an understanding "take responsibility" person find it hard to believe that these friends have never made a mistake or screwed anything up their entire lives let alone take responsibility for anything. Yet they have lived this way so very long that they have convenced themselves that they are ok... Yet try to point out the facts to them and show them how things could have been handled differently - they are like a turtle and crawl back into the safety of their shells...

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