Three Things to Stop and Do When You’ve Made Someone Out to be a Villain

Movies, TV shows, and plays- anything that tells a story really- usually create a victor and a villain. There always seems to be a bad guy. And we are all so happy to create and label the bad guy.

And in our own lives and workplaces, there seems to be this fight for good versus evil.  None of us are or want to be on the side of evil, so someone else must be, right?

If you’re like me, you’ve villainized at least one person in your lifetime.  I see it so much in one-on-one leadership coaching.  The labeling of someone as bad or the person to blame for all the bad going on is classic victim/villain mindset.

And in this black and white labeling of character, we’ve also tried to get everyone else to see what a villain he or she is.  Of course, we want to win people over to our side, the “good” side.  And before you know it, we end up becoming the villain in outright pursuit to give someone else that title.

I’ve found that those who are effective in moving past the victim or victor mentality employ these three strategies:

  1. They create at least three alternative stories or reasons for the actions of those they might want to label as a villain. In a classic sense, this is like saying, “Well, he kicked the dog because the dog bit him.”  There could be any number of things you could come up with, but it helps to breed some level of empathy for analyzing the situation in a more objective manner.
  2. They ask, “Have I done this same thing before?” Often, we are quick to be the pot and call the kettle black. We are often subject to the psychology principle of self-serving bias.  Asking this question of oneself can help with this.
  3. If the person really is the “villain”, having caused irreparable harm to others or the business, they “eliminate” the villain and move forward. Sometimes you can come up with reasons why someone has done something (#1), but that still doesn’t make what they did right.  As long as you aren’t practicing hypocrisy (#2), giving yourself a pass for something that you won’t give another person a pass for, the best way to move forward is to avoid the label of villain, but to make the best decision for you and the business.  Think about the greater whole that is served in your decision.


When have you labeled someone a villain?

Mary Ila Ward

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