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Doing the Victimization Polka

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Once someone buys into “victimhood,” all attempts to improve one’s abilities are lost. That’s because instead of pursuing avenues to develop competencies and overtake frontrunners, the “victim” invests all available energy in proving to anyone who will listen why “oppression” has prevented them from being any better than they are. “I can’t rise any further, ‘they’ won’t let me.”

The victimization dance is horribly dysfunctional. When we’re too willing to be convinced that an environmental allergy, ethnicity, life style, gender, physical appearance, too much or too little education, race, religion, or a myriad of other factors are being used to oppress us, we have given up on ourselves. When I managed national sales forces and organizational divisions (which many outraged readers claim I can’t possibly have done) I was always willing to invest in development, opportunity, and even failure in a good cause. But I was never willing to invest in self-pity, whining or the ubiquitous “they” who were holding “us” back.

In fact, that’s a large reason as to why I left the corporate world: I grew weary of the whiners.

HR’s job is to help people advance, not commiserate with their current doldrums and bête noirs. What I call the “victimization polka” is a dance that enchants people with heady music, but is ultimately a continuing trip around the dance floor in unwavering circles which finally exhausts the dancer (but not the musicians).

There are significant biases and institutionalized obstacles operating in the workplace that impede the progress of many competent people. We should boldly identify and attack those biases and obstacles, even at peril to our own careers. That’s because we won’t change them by debasing their importance through connection to dubious claims and junk science.

Like any other body with limited resources and scarce time. HR must decide where to “get bloody” fighting the good fight. That occurs for me when I hear a manager state that Asians shouldn’t be promoted to supervisory positions because they “cant confront others,” or when inappropriate language creates a hostile work environment. But it’s not about a clearly inferior candidate and poor performer claiming gender discrimination, or a prima donna concerned that someone is wearing a perfume that’s is personally disagreeable.

An old Italian saying observes, “They keep changing the record, but the music remains he same.” Let’s change the music and the dance.

© Alan Weiss 2002 All rights reserved.

Alan Weiss, Ph.D. is he president of Summit Consulting Group, Inc., a highly sought-after keynote speaker, and the author of 21 books. Visit his web site,, to contact him, access over 100 free articles, or to subscribe to his free newsletter “Balancing Act: Blending Life, Work, and Relationships.” His latest book is Organizational Consulting, focused on internal consulting methodology, published by John Wiley & Sons.

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