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.

๐Ÿค• Victimhood ๐Ÿค•

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.

Victimhood Cartoon

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.

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.

Paulo Coelho

Tendency for Interpersonal Victimhood (TIV)

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.

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.

1. Moral Elitism

The notion that one perceives themselves to possess immaculate morality while the perpetrator is immoral.

2. Lack of Empathy

An oblivious reaction to others and their suffering.

3. Need for Recognition

Victims' motivation to have their victimhood acknowledged and empathized with.

4. Rumination

Focusing on distress and its causes and consequences rather than solutions.

Victims in the Workplace

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.

๐Ÿง Victimhood Indicators ๐Ÿง

Blaming others when things go wrong or if a goal is not met.

Centering conversations around one's problems.

Refusing to join in on workplace activities or team-building exercises.

Sharing how others achieve success easier because they receive special treatment or better assignments.

Continually creating or involving oneself in workplace drama.

Only agrees to carry out tasks after displays of passive-aggressive resistance.

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:

Test their claims

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).

Give them a solo project

Victimhood makes it difficult for people to work well in groups without blaming others.

Create a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

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.

Document examples of individual's victim mentality moments

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.

โ€œDefeat is a state of mind; No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.

Bruce Lee


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.


Aquino, K., & Bradfield, M. . (2000). Perceived Victimization in the Workplace: The Role of Situational Factors and Victim Characteristics. Organization Science, 11(5), 525-537. .
Campbell, B., & Manning, J. . (2014). Microaggression and Moral Cultures. Comparative Sociology, 13(6), 692-726. .
Dewitt, S. . (2020). What Is Deflection? Psychology Explains This Defense Mechanism . BetterHelp.
Dolan, E. . (2021). Study finds the need for power predicts engaging in competitive victimhood. PsyPost.
Gabay, R., Hameiri, B., Rubel-Lifschitz, T., & Nadler, A. . (2020). The tendency for interpersonal victimhood: The personality construct and its consequences. Personality And Individual Differences, 165, 110134. .
Kaufman, S. . (2021). Unraveling the Mindset of Victimhood. Scientific American.
Kets de Vries, M. . (2012). Are You a Victim of the Victim Syndrome?. SSRN Electronic Journal.
Mind Tools . (2021). Managing a Person With a Victim Mentality: Dealing With Team Members Who Won't Take Responsibility. .
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Stiegler, L. . (2021). Five Ways to Manage an Employee with a Victim Mentality . Woods Rogers PLC.
Sykes, C. . (1992). A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character. .

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