Don’t be a Victim, be a Player

By Drs. Sheila Boysen, Lesley Page and Mike Cherry

Fred Kofman in his book, Conscious Business: How to build value through values, suggests that we, and our employees, can/may fall into two groups based around our mindset. We can be victims or players. For this month’s article, let’s define each, learn how to identify the victim/player through the language we use and, finally, determine what to do to help shift the mindset.


Victim:               Only pays attention to factors outside of their control. Those factors they cannot influence. This is the person who ‘suffers the consequences of others.’ Many, many years ago, we would say this person has an external locus of control i.e., situations happen to them, they are innocent and they often place blame on others. They are defensive.

Player:               Pays attention to factors that they can control. Those factors they can influence. This is the person that can respond to situations. They create options. This would be a person who has an internal locus of control i.e., they are a player in the situation, they have a responsibility and shared accountability. They demonstrate response-ability. They realize they have a choice in how to respond.

Identifying the victim and the player

Now that we know more about each type, Kofman suggests that the language we, and others use, is a sure signal of where we land. The table below provides a few ideas on what to listen for and we left a couple blank for you to fill in (just a bit of homework)!

Victim Player
It’s not my fault. I haven’t found a solution yet.
It’s hopeless. I could take the first step and get things started.
Someone should take the first step. I choose not to do it.
It can’t be done  
They didn’t allow me to have input  
I didn’t know what to do.  
I had too many emails and didn’t see yours.  
I’m late to this meeting because my call ran over.  

What to do?

If we find ourselves, or our teammates, are falling into a victim mentality, here are a few things we should avoid:

  • Allowing ‘victim’ talk to go on too long. Define a time frame for venting…2 minutes, 5 minutes?
  • Fuel the victim talk. We often want to sympathize with the situation. Avoid questions such as, ‘What happened to you?’
  • Jumping to solutions before exploring what the person can control.

To make positive progress on moving from victim to player we, and Kofman, suggests the following:

  • Recognize the mindset by paying attention to the words that are used. Really listen. Stay curious, ask questions to understand and clarify the situation/gap.
  • Be direct in feedback. Ask questions such as:
    • How would the other person explain this situation?
    • What are you responsible for in this situation?
    • Provide observations and leverage paraphrase to ‘mirror’ what the person said.
  • Coach through inquiry. Questions such as:
    • What can you do differently?
    • What could you have done better or ways you could have prepared?


In conclusion, if you are struggling with the victim mindset, ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I able to control in this situation?
  • What else am I able to control?
  • Where can I make positive changes that can help me move forward toward my goal?

Answering these questions immediately puts you back in the driver’s seat. You are no longer the victim; you are instead in charge of how you respond to the events and circumstances you are dealing with.

What these questions also do well is they pull you away from playing the blame game, and from making excuses or complaints that will typically draw you into playing the victim card. The key is to focus on what you can control at this very moment. Even if all you can control is yourself and how you think and respond to the situation, then that is all you need to help empower your actions moving forward.


Kofman, F. (2013). Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values. Louisville, CO: Sounds True Inc.

One thought on “Don’t be a Victim, be a Player

  1. November 30, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    As a victim advocate, I do not support your generalizations of humanity into the camps of victim v. players. I have been a victim of crime and I have survived and adapted. I would never use my own growth to put down anyone else who has been a victim. Do you know what disappears from our knowledge if we can not know about victimization? Perpetrators of crime and crime. Do we really need to flatter our own egos in order to succeed by imagining ourselves as players and others as victims. This represents a bully mindset, if you ask me, and is in severe need of rethinking if one does not intend to undermine society’s development over the long term by the propagation of such damaging ideas. In my opinion, we need to find a new way to talk about our complaints about the behavior of others than to resort to such lazy methods as victim bashing. (Bashing the obviously vulnerable is just too easy, wouldn’t ya say?)

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