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:
- Is It Blame or Is It Accountability?
- When we seek those accountable for a particular failure, we risk blaming them instead, because many
of us confuse accountability with blame. What's the difference between them? How can we keep blame at bay?
- Fooling Ourselves
- Humans have impressive abilities to convince themselves of things that are false. One explanation for
this behavior is the theory of cognitive dissonance.
- Suppressing Dissent: I
- In some groups, disagreeing with the majority, or disagreeing with the Leader, can be a personally expensive
act. Here is Part I of a set of tactics used by Leaders who choose not to tolerate dissent.
- The Utility Pole Anti-Pattern: I
- Organizational processes can get so complicated that nobody actually knows how they work. If getting
something done takes too long, the organization can't lead its markets, or even catch up to the leaders.
Why does this happen?
- Power Affect
- Expressing one's organizational power to others is essential to maintaining it. Expressing power one
does not yet have is just as useful in attaining it.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
- And on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.
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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.