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Manipulation @ Work
How do you get what you want?

In today’s do-or-die workplace, authentic conversations are out--and manipulation is in. In fact, four out of five careerists say that people who do it “best” seem to get ahead. And with manipulation so common in everyday conversations, odds are, most of us don’t even realize when we’re the ones doing the manipulating. Find the “you” in manipulation--your personal favorites in 12 popular techniques:

Overpromising
Do you make unrealistic promises to win people over or get something in return?

“Sure, I can get it to you tomorrow--or maybe even later today. I’ve got three other reports due this week, but I’ll make yours a priority.”

Spinning the facts
Do you dance on the edge of dishonesty and give calculated descriptions that favor your positions or ideas?

“Employees will surely resist another reorganization. Let’s emphasize how it will benefit them--or they might not buy in.”

Feigning interest
Do you fake interest in someone or something to get what you need?

“Oh! Are those your vacation pictures? I’d love to see them. And, hey, now that you’re back, when can I get the new numbers?”

Overstating
Do you exaggerate threats or create a heightened sense of urgency to “motivate” people?

“This is our worst quarter yet. If we don’t double production, we’ll be out of business--and you’ll be out of a job.”

Understating
Do you downplay major issues or problems to keep others calm--and focused on work?

“Stop worrying and just do your job. Things aren’t as bad as they seem, and even if they were, this stuff always blows over.”

Playing to emotions
Do you appeal to others’ overtly positive or negative emotions?

“I know you’re tired of putting in all these extra hours. But just think how proud you’ll feel when the product launches.”

Reassuring--without assurance
Do you assure people that “everything will be fine” when you have no real evidence it’s true?

“This is just a slowdown. Trust me, things are going to be alright.”

Disguising agendas
Do you mask your true intentions and say or do something else?

“Boy, have I got a great overtime opportunity for you. It’s a chance to make some big bucks and be a real star on the team.”

Being intentionally vague
Do you stay mum--and purposely not clear things up--when a misunderstanding serves your self-interest?

“Thanks! Sounds like you’ve got it.”

Dropping names
Do you drop a name or two just to get people’s attention or commitment?

“I know you’ll do a great job. In fact, I may even show this one to Mr. Jones and the executive team when I’m with them next week.”

Using sarcasm
Do you make your point by making others look and feel foolish?

“How brilliant are you? You promised delivery to the customer in three days when everyone knows those orders take a week. Good job.”

Sucking up
Do you go over the top and give phony praise to get what you want?

“You’re the best writer here, and everything you do is perfect. That’s why I couldn’t ask anyone but you to take this on.”

Odds are, most of us don’t even realize when we’re the ones doing the manipulating.

Copyright 2008 Jamie Showkeir and Maren Showkeir. All rights reserved.

Jamie Showkeir and Maren Showkeir are workplace experts and co-authors of Authentic Conversations: Moving from Manipulation to Truth and Commitment (Berrett-Koehler, 2008, $18.95). Partners of Henning-Showkeir & Associates, a business consultancy specializing in workplace culture, they advise organizations such as 3M, HP, Kaiser Permanente, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and The Nature Conservancy. They enjoy yoga, cycling, music, traveling, and the genuine satisfaction of authentic conversations. Contact them on the Web at www.henning-showkeir.com.

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