Undermining one's own subordinates might seem at first to be a dumb thing to do. Well, it is. But that doesn't stop people from wanting to do it even more effectively. Here's a collection of techniques for undermining your subordinates. If these seem like common sense to you, you probably need professional help.
- Hijack meetings
- "Sit in," unexpectedly if possible, on meetings usually conducted by subordinates. About one-third of the way through, make a very-important-sounding pronouncement that lets you hijack the meeting for whatever time remains.
- Conduct surprise skip-level interviews
- Drop in unannounced on your subordinate's subordinates. Ask probing questions that suggest you have doubts about your subordinate's performance. Example: "What's the real scoop on this project?"
- Put two people in charge of the same thing
- Make them co-leaders of something that's in such disarray that only a single, strong leader could ever prevent the looming failure.
- Delegate something to A, then re-delegate it to B, without telling A that you re-delegated it. For extra zing, don't reveal to B that you had previously delegated it to A.
- Delegate something to someone, then un-delegate it, but don't explain why. Let everybody think that the un-delegatee must have messed up, but never say why or how. They'll imagine things far worse than anything you could possibly think of.
- Designate a secret leader
- Tell someone they're responsible for leading something, but don't tell anybody else. If somebody else asks you to confirm that the designated leader is actually the leader, mumble something incoherent or at least ambiguous.
- Blame people one at a time for failures
- Never hold a team responsible for failure, because they'll just support each other, mitigating any guilt or shame. Make sure you single out just one person. Shame is more intense when borne alone.
- Humiliate publicly
- Public humiliation is always effective, but don't overuse it. Use sparingly for maximum sting.
- Insist on the final say in hiring
- If a subordinate If these seem like
common sense to you,
you probably need
professional helpis hiring, insist on interviewing all candidates. Also insist on final approval. And make sure that everyone knows this is your policy. You don't want anyone getting a sense of autonomy, because autonomy is good for self-esteem.
- Override decisions
- Every now and then, override a subordinate's decision. Naturally, wait until after the decision has been publicly announced.
- Make people wait for approvals
- Take your own sweet time when someone needs your approval for something. When you finally do approve, they'll really appreciate it. Oh, and turn something down occasionally. You don't want to be seen as a rubber stamp. Practice these words: "I think we need to re-think this one."
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- The quality of the output of brainstorming sessions is notoriously variable. One source of variation is the enthusiasm of contributors. Here's Part I of a set of nine phenomena that can limit contributions to brainstorm sessions. Available here and by RSS on January 31.
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