The Happy Victimizer

The researchers interviewed and watched children interacting in a classroom environment. They asked questions such as “are there rules in the class”, and “if the teacher is not watching, can you break a rule”. The part that caught my attention was the notion that some children were known as “Happy Victimizers”. These are people who behave badly even when they know it’s wrong because it makes them feel good.

These were children in the “moralistic age range” who would take delight in breaking a rule or hurting another child even when they knew it to be wrong. They would smile as the punished the victim, either emotionally, or physically.

It occurred to me that we have some people like that in our professional circles. Do you know any “Happy Victimizers”? People who may behave badly even though they know it’s wrong? It poses an interesting question around how we deal with this type of behavior as a leader.

The first question is difficult: “Am I a happy victimizer”? Are there times when I professionally behave badly even when I know it is the wrong thing to do? Examples of this may include: providing developmental feedback in public, berating a colleague or direct report in front of others. If so, use this awareness to get in touch with your “happy victimizer” state and quash it. There is no room in leadership ranks for this type of behavior.

The next question is: “As a leader, do I see any of this behavior on my team or in my organization”? If so, then we need to provide healthy boundaries to protect ourselves from this type of unprofessional attack.

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