When we think of manipulation, we associate it more with romantic or family scenarios than with professional ones.
However, manipulative individuals seeking to “create an imbalance of power” are not uncommon in the workplace, according to Dr. Jabeen Begum for WebMD.
It is essential to recognise the most common manipulation tactics, as it can be particularly insidious when it infiltrates the professional sphere.
“Manipulators don’t use the strongest arguments to persuade us. They exploit our need for approval and connection or exploit our fear of losing our position within the group,” emphasises human resources expert and journalist Marina Glazman for the Harvard Business Review.
They appropriate all good ideas, even when they are not on their own
The American specialist explains that the five techniques she outlines stem from actual situations experienced or observed in the workplace.
Firstly, she points to “credibility theft.” She provides the example of a man unauthentically associating himself with brands and causes he knew would impress (by lying about his past experiences and hobbies), thereby co-opting their credibility for his benefit.
“When someone’s argument relies heavily on their associations, check its authenticity. Ask questions about these relationships. What is the exact connection of the person with these people or brands? Have they invested time in these causes? What actions have been taken to implement the values they claim to defend?” recommends the expert.
They exploit common negative opinions to gain your trust
According to Marina Glazman, sharing a negative feeling can unite people (helping to relieve stress or create a sense of belonging), but it can also help manipulators rally colleagues to their side.
“Carefully examine any argument that invokes common enemies or common threats to establish relationships. If someone talks about a fear that both of you have of a disastrous outcome or an imminent event, or if they claim to share your anger toward a person, situation, or brand, take note of it.”
What the expert calls “common threat” helps the manipulator fuel your anger or fear with the sole purpose of showing you they share your ideas and condition you to accept whatever they will tell you next.
They constantly lie about their results
Manipulative individuals rely heavily on appearance and have no difficulty lying to appear more capable to others, thus gaining your trust through their professionalism and results (which are often not verified).
However, beware of false achievements, warns Marina Glazman. “It’s tempting for them to use appearance as a substitute for reality. But take the time to ask for sources of information. Ask for names of references and case study subjects, and ask questions,” she encourages.
They attempt to discredit the competition
To present their ideas as good, manipulative individuals will try to discredit those of the competition (another company or another colleague).
“If you have the troubling feeling that the person proposing something to you wants to stigmatise a competing option, you must first distinguish between facts and characteristics. Dig into claims like ‘people think’ or ‘the community believes’ to find out who is really saying what.
What are their exact words? Have they used the word ‘dangerous,’ or is it a characterisation?” enumerates the HR expert.
She advises always to “reject the false dichotomy that if option A is bad, option B must be the right one.”
They divide to conquer
Finally, the last commonly used tactic by manipulators in the workplace is also the one that can affect you the most.
Gradually, the malicious person will try to manipulate you, also to create a sense of belonging, which fosters trust with them, making them appear as the only reliable person.
“This tactic of division and conquest is known as pluralistic ignorance. It involves making group members fear opposing a bad idea because they have been wrongly led to believe that they are the only ones opposing it,” explains Marina Glazman.
To overcome this, she recommends expanding your horizons, especially by subtly consulting your colleagues’ opinions: “I’m not sure what I think about X. Are you convinced it’s the right thing to do?”
If you have doubts about the good intentions of someone in your professional circle, don’t hesitate to distance yourself from them. And if you have no choice but to deal with them, take necessary precautions to protect yourself (don’t discuss personal matters with them, question what they tell you, etc.).
This article was syndicated from Marie Claire France