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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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Empire Building
- Empire builders create bases of power within the larger organization. Typically, they use these domains
to advance personal or provincial agendas. What are the characteristics of empires? How can we navigate
through or around them?
- Nasty Questions: II
- In meetings, telemeetings, and email we sometimes ask questions that aren't intended to elicit information.
Rather, they're indirect attacks intended to advance the questioner's political agenda. Here's part
two of a catalog of some favorite tactics.
- Power, Authority, and Influence: A Systems View
- Power, Authority, and Influence are often understood as personal attributes. To fully grasp how they
function in organizations, we must adopt a systems view.
- Some Hazards of Skip-Level Interviews: III
- Skip-level interviews — dialogs between a subordinate and the subordinate's supervisor's supervisor
— can be hazardous. Here's Part III of a little catalog of the hazards, emphasizing subordinate-initiated
- Critical Communications
- From time to time, we're responsible for sending critical communications — essential messages
that the intended recipients must have. It's a heavy responsibility that can bear some risk. A strategy
for managing those risks involves three messages.
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- Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized. Three reasons: (a) conventional definitions of bullying exclude much actual bullying; (b) perpetrators cleverly evade detection; and (c) cognitive biases skew our perceptions so we don't see bullying as bullying. Available here and by RSS on February 5.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.