Because so many political transactions in modern organizations revolve around the distribution or exchange of information, devious tactics related to information are becoming increasingly common. The general approach involves withholding information, or distorting it before passing it along. Here's a short catalog of devious political tactics related to information.
- Hoarding information
- Since information can be power, withholding information from a target can deprive that target of power. But simple withholding is risky if you're caught doing it, because openness about harming someone invites retaliation. More sophisticated approaches involve distributing the information through channels the target ignores or cannot access, or timing the distribution so that it only becomes available when the target cannot benefit from it. These more sophisticated approaches allow the hoarder to deprive the target of information while at the same time reaping "points" for keeping the target informed.
- Trading in fool's gold
- Political operators who engage in information exchanges can often help each other politically. But perfidious operators sometimes offer information that appears to be valuable, but which they know to be worthless or nearly so. Perhaps it has a short shelf life; or many people, outside the awareness of the recipient, already know it; or it's incorrect in some subtle but very important ways.
- Disinforming en masse
- Disinformation is not only false — it's known to be false by the person disclosing it. But when disclosed to numerous people — over a wide area — it's usually received uncritically, because people believe that nobody would blatantly lie so widely without fear of being caught. In other words, the breadth and boldness of the distribution tends to lend credibility to the disinformation. To employ this tactic, the source of the disinformation must have confidence that the information cannot be easily falsified.
- Making errors in details
- Some information Perfidious operators sometimes offer
information that appears to be
valuable, but which they know
to be worthless or nearly sois valuable only if it's correct in every detail. Examples are procedures, directions, dates, times, email addresses, telephone numbers, URLs, and the spelling of names and places. Operators who don't wish to divulge such information, but who must do so when requested, can delay the disclosure, possibly rendering it worthless, by including errors in the material significant enough to prevent the recipient from using it successfully, but carefully designed to be plausibly explained as "typos."
- Cluttering the cupboard
- When operators absolutely must disclose the information, but don't want recipients to actually use it, they can include the information in a field of irrelevant clutter that prevents recipients from finding it easily. An excuse is usually required to justify the action. Example: "Oh, we thought you needed the results for all customers, not just the ones who complained." Example: "Sorry, we can't extract by that set of criteria — it isn't one we're set up for. So we used these other criteria instead."
Read about more devious political tactics.
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More articles on Devious Political Tactics:
- Devious Political Tactics: The False Opportunity
- Workplace politics can make any environment dangerous, both to your career and to your health. This
excerpt from my little catalog of devious political tactics describes the false opportunity, which appears
to be a chance to perform, to contribute, or to make a real difference. It's often something else.
- Ten Approaches to Managing Project Risks: I
- Risk management usually entails coping with losses if they do occur. Here's Part I of a concise summary
of the options for managing risk.
- Ten Approaches to Managing Project Risks: II
- Managing risk entails coping with unwanted events that might or might not happen, and which can be costly
if they do happen. Here's Part II of our exploration of coping strategies for unwanted events.
- Pushing the "Stupid" Button
- Some people know exactly how to lead others to feel ignorant or unintelligent. Here's a little catalog
of tactics to watch for.
- Behavioral Indicators of Political Risk
- Avoiding dangerous political interactions is easier if you know what to look for. Among the indicators
of possible trouble are the behaviors of the people around you.
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.