The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

January 8, 2017

Deserving the Bosses You Get

Are your bosses products of the people who work for them?  For example, your coworkers who play the victim – don’t they make everyone ELSE into victims, too?  And BTW, what have YOU been complaining about – and how will you stop your victimhood? Don’t we all have a responsibility to make our bosses better?  Just askin’ …


View Transcript

Voiceover: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. Now, a show for anyone who is or has a boss, this is the Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.
Jim Hessler: Hello. I am Jim Hessler. I’m The Business Guy. I’m the Founder of Path Forward Leadership Development and the author along with my co-host of the book Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face. This is the show for anyone who is or has a boss.
Steve Motenko: Lead author, you’re the lead author, I want to say.
Jim Hessler: Maybe we could use that terminology. It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t have my ego wrapped up.
Steve Motenko: You’re so gracious.
Jim Hessler: It’s a good book.
Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m The Psychology Guy. I’m an Executive Coach here in the Seattle area, broadcasting here in the shadow of the Space Needle and I also do, as Jim kind of implied, leadership work with his Path Forward Leadership Development Company. We are here to offer you, hopefully, a little bit of workplace wisdom with heart and humor.
Jim Hessler: We need that because a lot of people aren’t happy in their work lives and even if they are they could be a lot better. One of the things that I think has been an interesting evolution, Steve, in my thinking and I think our thinking collectively, as we continue to help people learn the art and science of leadership, is how important the role is of the follower in developing the leader and how much the leader is a product to a certain degree of those people who work for them.
Steve Motenko: In our model, our curriculum model, we do an 18-month workshops here, we actually believe that one-shot leadership workshops simply don’t work to produce sustainable behavior change. The second component of our model, the second module of our model, is called Be Worthy of Followers. We make the case that followers choose leaders rather than vice versa.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, and that leads very nicely into the theme of the show today, which is just really an exploration of this concept that we get the leaders we deserve. You’ve heard the comment before.
Steve Motenko: Yeah.
Jim Hessler: Do you ever read on that? It’s one of those things you hear and then you kind of we’re going to have to really think about it for a …
Steve Motenko: You know what, at first flash, I don’t like it.
Jim Hessler: Okay.
Steve Motenko: But are you going to convince me that it’s true?
Jim Hessler: I’m not sure. I’m not even sure I buy into it all that much. It’s just it’s one of those adages that you hear a lot of this. We get the leaders we deserve.
Steve Motenko: I know we’re going to talk about victimhood today.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, we are.
Steve Motenko: I think to a certain extent, if we’re victims, we get the leaders we deserve because we project on them qualities that our victimhood wants to project on them and so they become that for us.
Jim Hessler: Yeah. That is actually really what we want to explore today because we’ve had David Emerald on our show. David wrote a wonderful book called The Power of TED* (The Empowerment Dynamic). In our work with our clients, we present this concept called the Drama Triangle which has three points on it. One is the victim, one is the persecutor and one is the rescuer. These are kind of co-dependent stories or roles that people play. Really since I’ve kind of got myself immersed in this thinking about this Drama Triangle and then David Emerald’s model, which changes the victim to a creator, changes the persecutor to a challenger and changes the rescuer to a coach, I’ve been thinking about the ways that victim stance and victim behavior show up in the workplace quite a bit because it’s really quite destructive what it does, not only to us as individuals but to the culture of which we’re a part. I become more and more aware of this as we move forward in our work with our clients.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, absolutely. Victimhood, the appeal of it is subtle in a way because there’s this self-righteous rush of energy that you get when you feel a victim. For those of you who did not like the election of Donald Trump for example, if you really look inside yourself, you can see that in your anger and your disgust there is, again, this kind of self-righteousness that fuels you in a way that actually feels good.
Jim Hessler: In today’s show, I really want to challenge this idea of the victim stance in terms of how it shows up in creating the type of leadership that we have in our lives. What kind of leaders are we attracting? What kind of leaders are we responding to? I think it has a lot to do with whether or not we embrace the victim stance, so more on that when we get back. You’re listening to The Boss Show.
Voiceover: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.
Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler. I am The Business Guy.
Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko. I am The Psychology Guy and you are listening to the show for anyone who is or has a boss. If you like what you hear, you might want to hear more of it. You can go to our website,, where you can contact us from there. You can download previous episodes. You can also subscribe to the podcast, which you can also do on iTunes, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
Jim Hessler: Steve, I think, I’m delving into your turf here today I think with some psychology stuff, so please …
Steve Motenko: Hey, stay off of my turf.
Jim Hessler: … pipe up, all right.
Steve Motenko: I got turf issues.
Jim Hessler: You have a lot to offer in this conversation.
Steve Motenko: Thank you.
Jim Hessler: I think, in general, we could probably agree that there is somewhat of a law of attraction working in the world that how we show up, what we believe, how we present ourselves, how we feel about ourselves says a lot about the type of people that we end up with, spending time with in our lives.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, I cringe a little bit at the reference to the Law of Attraction.
Jim Hessler: I know. It’s “The Secret” thing that we don’t believe in.
Steve Motenko: We both just hugely disagree with that, although we do agree that we have way more influence – while it doesn’t work to just kind of believe that positive things will happen and then they’ll happen, we do agree that, and it ties right back to your comment, that we have more influence over reality, our reality than we think. If we look at everything from a victim perspective, if we believe that everything that happens, if we pay attention constantly to the negative, I say this often in workshops, do you have someone in your life who’s constantly complaining, constantly playing the victim, constantly playing talking about how everything is working against them? In a workshop full of 10 people, quite often I’ll see two or three people who are like vigorously nodding their heads because Aunt Jane comes to mind or whoever. When that happens, that person’s life reflects what they choose to pay attention to.
Jim Hessler: Kind of accelerates it and kind of amplifies it, I guess, would be a word. Here’s an idea. If you take the victim stance, and this is review. The victim stance is nothing is my fault. My life is not my own. That the things that happen to me are the result of actions and the intentions of other people rather than myself. That’s a very quick description of the victim stance. If you take that stance in life and if you take that stance in the workplace, you may be actually inviting bad leadership and bad bosses into your life. That’s my theorem that I’m working with today.
Steve Motenko: Jim, do you mean your show notes … There’s a note to me that says, “Help me remember to make this all personal.”
Jim Hessler: This is all really personal because I’ve lived all this on I think both sides of the equation and I’ll explain as we go along. Let’s remember the triangle. The victim needs both rescuers and persecutors. These are the three points of the victim triangle, the Drama Triangle. Victims, rescuers and persecutors. The victim needs both rescuers and persecutors to complete their story. It’s hard to be a victim unless you have persecutors who are putting you down and it’s also likely that you’re going to attract people who are rescuers.
Steve Motenko: You need to fix it for you and they need to fix it for you.
Jim Hessler: They need to fix it for you and then they get to leave out their story by being your rescuer. If you think about it, if you act in the role of a victim, there’s a good chance that you’re going to look at your bosses through one of those two lenses.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, you look at everybody.
Jim Hessler: Right.
Steve Motenko: Since the boss has a significant role in your life …
Jim Hessler: … But very specifically, you may actually be leading your bosses towards behaving in one of those two roles to finish the triangle with you.
Steve Motenko: Not least because they’re likely to feel victimized by your victimhood.
Jim Hessler: Exactly.
Steve Motenko: Who wants to associate with a victim? I’m going to feel victimized by your presence in my life if you show up as a victim all the time.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, that’s well said. Now, we have two people as victims. This is one of the things about the Drama Triangle we talked about is how much we kind of rotate around the triangle ourselves and play more than one role. As much as we think our boss sets the stage, as much as we think the boss really sets the rules of engagement with their employees, the employees’ stance and the employee, how the employee shows up has way more influence on the boss’s behavior. In addition to that, a huge amount of influence on how that leader’s behavior is interpreted in the workplace based on whether people around them are taking the victim stance. We’re going to flesh that out more when we come back from the break. You’re listening to The Boss Show.
Voiceover: Now, back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is The Boss Show on KOMO News.
Jim Hessler: This is the show for anyone who is or has a boss. I’m Jim Hessler and I’m The Business Guy.
Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m The Psychology Guy, and we’re talking about a psychological thing today, victimhood, and applying it to the workplace, but we also want to let you know that if you’ve got comments on our insights on the show or you just want to let us know what you’d like us to talk about on The Boss Show, please send us an e-mail at or if you’re a little bit bolder than that, you can use our listener comment line. The number is 206-973-7377.
Jim Hessler: If you take the victim stance at work, you may indeed be making, certainly making your boss’s job more difficult, but you may actually be causing the cause of certain bad leadership behavior or boss behavior.
Steve Motenko: It becomes a feedback loop.
Jim Hessler: It becomes a feedback loop as this Drama Triangle really ends up being in most cases anyway. One of the things that I was thinking about, Steve, and again Psychology Guy helped me out here, but it seems to that’s possible for victims to actually invite dominant behavior in others. Why would a victim want a dominant personality in their lives?
Steve Motenko: To fuel their victim story.
Jim Hessler: Yeah.
Steve Motenko: It’s the simple answer to the question.
Jim Hessler: Yeah.
Steve Motenko: Because to a certain extent, I’m identified with my story. To a great extent, we’re all identified with our story. If I’m a victim, as I talked about earlier in the show that kind of self-righteous rush of energy from playing the victim, then that is part of who I see myself to be. If other people aren’t playing into that story, then it shakes my identity.
Jim Hessler: Right, and this is where my personal experience shows up because I actually, without mentioning names or locations, I can actually think of a couple of different situations where I saw somebody kind of shrinking down and taking a victim stance with me and I actually became more dominant with them because in a way I kind of felt like that’s what they were asking me for.
Steve Motenko: In a way, it’s kind of a mirror neuron sort of thing where you are actually feeling the feeling that the other person is feeling. That was three feelings in one sentence. Is that okay?
Jim Hessler: I think so, yeah. That’s a triple feeling thing.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, because I have so much empathy.
Jim Hessler: That’s so like you.
Steve Motenko: If you are feeling the emotion, maybe that’s a better way to say it, that the other person is experiencing, then you’re likely to have that to a certain extent drive your behavior.
Jim Hessler: I think as a leader, it’s natural to a certain degree that you would view that victim stance as weakness. As a leader, you might step in kind of more strongly and assertively with this person because you just feel like you have to to get anything done.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, interesting. It also kind of cause to mind what we talked about in the show a week or two ago about empathy and how when we have power over another person it can actually reduce our empathy.
Jim Hessler: Right.
Steve Motenko: The person is inviting you to get more power over them.
Jim Hessler: They are. That’s exactly right, yeah. Whether you empathize with them or not, there’s just kind of this vacuum there that you almost feel like you need to fill, like the person is not going to take care of themselves, so I’m going to go in and I’m going to be more decisive for them.
Steve Motenko: You can rise above that if you pay attention to your core values and the value of empathy, but it’s tough.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, but also situationally it may just be a requirement that you just going to have to go in and maybe be more decisive.
Steve Motenko: Right. Yes, I get that.
Jim Hessler: Also, we will talk about this when we get back from the break, but victims also in many cases want leaders who identify and vilify other persecutors in the organization and then the leader can step in and be your hero and your rescuer, preventing you from the wrongs that are being put on behind you by these other member of the organization. It’s very political, but it happens.
Steve Motenko: Exactly, it’s a story.
Jim Hessler: You’re listening to The Boss Show.
Voiceover: KOMO News. The Boss Show is back on the Northwest Lifestyle Weekend. Here’s Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.
Jim Hessler: I am Jim Hessler and I’m The Business Guy.
Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m The Psychology Guy. We’re talking today on The Boss Show about victimhood and how victims tend to get the leaders they deserve. Just in case you’re listening to the show, thinking in high and mighty ways, oh, well, that’s somebody else, that’s not me, those terrible victims, I have a question to ask you which is a question that I ask to my workshop participants, which is what do you complain about?
Jim Hessler: Great question.
Steve Motenko: When you complain, you are in a way, in a subtle or not too subtle way, being a victim. Pretty much all of us complains, so pretty much all of us to some extent take on the cloak of victim.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, you really have to look in the mirror on this one. Right before the break, we talked about something we actually referred to on our workshop, I call it the Foxhole Mentality, so if you picture the battlefield and then there’s this bomb crater and you’re a buck private, you’re in there with your sergeant and your sergeant says, “Okay, just stay down here in this foxhole with me. I’ll protect you from all the bullets that are whizzing over the head. I’ve got your back.” A lot of managers in the business world almost create this foxhole. They kind of demonize the rest of the organization and they set themselves up as rescuers for their team that just let me take care of the politics, let me take care of all the BS that goes in our organization. I’ll be your rescuer. I’ll be your guide. Don’t worry about a thing, I got it, which victimizes other people.
Steve Motenko: Exactly, and what’s important to understand is that it comes from a positive motivation. I need to take care of my people. I want to protect my people from the slings and arrows of outrages, other teams, and that’s a really positive motivation. The problems quite simply to me is that that motivation does not play out on a large enough playing field so that you’re prioritizing the needs of only part of the organization over the needs and desires of the rest of the organization, which is a strategy destined not to win.
Jim Hessler: Absolutely. If you’re taking what David Emerald calls the creator stance rather than the victim stance, a really challenging way to think about that and it’s really challenging is to in each and every situation in which you find yourself, ask yourself how you’ve contributed to creating what you see, right. This is a tough one because if you see your boss acting in certain ways, you can just, it’s so easy to say, well that’s the boss. How have you contributed to that dynamic, that little drama that’s going on between your boss? Another way that that happens, another way that we can kind of create the wrong dynamic with our boss is to complain a lot about our boss because they are a person of power. This puts the boss on the defensive and it makes the boss weary, distrustful and actually more likely now to enter into conflict because o this.
You may not think your boss is the best person in the world, but by complaining about them, that will get back to them, number one, and they’ll hear that and they’ll pull back from the relationship and it will just cycle into a worsen worse situation.
Steve Motenko: They might feel it even if they don’t hear it.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, they can sense it.
Steve Motenko: Even if nobody reports it, yeah they can sense it.
Jim Hessler: If you’re in this victim mode and you’re constantly demonizing your boss and constantly blaming them, that’s ugly for them and they pull away and the relationship has less and less hope of ever getting better. By complaining about your boss, you may actually produce more of the behavior that you’re complaining about.
Steve Motenko: One mitigating factor is empathy, again, as we talked about in previous show. Most people who complain about their boss don’t know everything, about the stresses that their boss has faced.
Jim Hessler: Amen.
Steve Motenko: About the values that their boss are responsible for enacting or the courses of action that they’re responsible for. About the pieces of their responsibility that aren’t part of my responsibility. What might be possible when you feel the desire to complain about your boss to really step into your boss’s experience to find out what’s going on for them.
Jim Hessler: Again, this is part of a theme that we talked about a great deal with our clients, which is don’t be a victim in your relationship with your boss. The relationship you have with your boss is at least in large part, your responsibility as well as theirs and we want to continue to focus on that. You’re listening to The Boss Show.
Voiceover: It’s a Northwest Lifestyle Weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.
Jim Hessler: Welcome back. I’m Jim Hessler. I’m The Business Guy.
Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m The Psychology Guy. We’re talking about the victim stance which too many of us take on and how it can bring us, how it can attract bad leadership to us. By the way, if you want more information about the Dram Triangle that Jim is talking about, you might want to go to our website, We did a couple of interviews, a two-part series, with David Emerald who wrote the book that Jim referred to earlier, The Power of TED, which stands for The Empowerment Dynamic. Go to our website and click on the Shows tab and go back to June of this year and you’ll see a pair of shows, Are you choosing to be a victim and Escaping Victimhood.
Jim Hessler: One of the other difficulties I’ve had in my career is if I had an employee who is taking a victim stance, I would argue that taking a victim stance tends to make you much more sensitive to feedback because you tend to perceive it as a personal attack rather than something that’s helpful to you.
Steve Motenko: Yes.
Jim Hessler: But no matter how skillfully it’s presented to you, if you’re in a victim stance, you’re not going to want to get any negative feedback.
Steve Motenko: Because we want to confirm our stories, we’re going to be more sensitive to negative feedback, but we’re not even going to be able to pay attention to positive feedback.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, good point. Good point.
Steve Motenko: That reinforces our negative story.
Jim Hessler: What I found in my career is that victims often don’t want to be challenged and then that made it harder for me to do my job as their boss. It made it more difficult for me to develop their talents. It made it more difficult for me to enter into relationships of trust and support and challenge with them and so the boss ends up not communicating well because the victim doesn’t want to hear it.
Steve Motenko: Right, or their view of reality is so skewed that they can’t get a balanced picture of what the boss is trying to say. All they hear is negative, negative, negative.
Jim Hessler: Yeah. I mean, this is the person where we do a 360 assessment for example and the person self-assessment is wildly more positive than the assessment they get from other people. That’s just really from a boss perspective. That’s a really, really difficult challenging individual and circumstance to deal with. It’s kind of like, I always think of a cat and when they get scared they raise their back and they try to make themselves look bigger. There’s that going on with victims. It’s like don’t come near me.
Steve Motenko: It works. My cat does that with my dog and, boy, does he back up. It sounds like a joke, but it really actually does work kind of that way in human dynamics as well.
Jim Hessler: It does. What a victim does a really good job of is making it wildly unpleasant to give them any negative feedback and start to punish you.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, constructive.
Jim Hessler:  My mother was great at this. She was masterful at making you feel terrible for ever saying anything bad about her in a small way. It was awful. Of course, we of course just stop doing it.
Steve Motenko: Right. Why bother?
Jim Hessler: She stop growing as a human being because she never got any constructive feedback from anybody about anything.
Steve Motenko: Reminds of the show we did just a few weeks ago on The Dunning-Kruger Effect where people of low competence judge themselves to be people of high competence. I bet a lot of those people are victims.
Jim Hessler: Absolutely. Again, what’s really, really important and we’ll recap here in a second, but when you’re being a victim, you’re making the bosses and leaders in your life less effective. No matter how good they are, no matter how good their intentions are, your victimhood will make their job more difficult and less productive.
Steve Motenko: You’re also making yourself a lot less effective if all you focus on is the negative.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, you got it. The fact is that being a victim, it makes a relationship break down just in general. Two people can’t function together well when one of them is acting the victim. You’re listening to The Boss Show.
Voiceover: Now, back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is The Boss Show on KOMO News.
Steve Motenko: Welcome back to The Boss Show. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m The Psychology Guy.
Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, The Business Guy, and we’ve been talking today about how victims can make their bosses life more difficult. Victims can create conflict and they tend to look at their bosses as either persecutors or as rescuers. Either one of those invites the boss into an unhealthy dynamic that makes both of you less productive.
Steve Motenko: A dysfunctional relationship as the psychology …
Jim Hessler: Yes, and those dysfunctional relationships are not always caused by the boss. I’m sorry to tell you. The Boss Show is produced by Boss Media Productions and our sound engineer. He’s Kevin Dodrill.
Steve Motenko: If you missed any of the show today and you’re not feeling victimized by it, you can get it in its entirety online at the, which is also where you can go to subscribe to our podcast. We’re also on iTunes and Stitcher and SoundCloud. You can also at our website contact us, maybe to bring us into your workplace.
Jim Hessler: If we don’t say it often enough, we really do appreciate you listening.
Steve Motenko: Don’t forget. Rule number six.
Jim Hessler: Rule number six

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