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."
Humans are endlessly clever. Send me examples of other techniques, and I'll add them to the catalog. Top Next Issue
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Read about more devious political tactics.
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More articles on Devious Political Tactics:
- Preventing Meeting Hijacking
- Meeting leads, meeting chairs, and facilitators must be prepared to deal with meeting hijackers. Hesitation,
or any ineffectual action, enhances the hijacker's chances of success. Here are suggestions for preventing
- Dealing with Meeting Hijackings
- When you haven't prevented a meeting hijacking, and you believe a hijacking is underway, what can you
do? How can you regain control?
- Narcissistic Behavior at Work: IX
- An arrogant demeanor is widely viewed as a hallmark of the narcissist. But truly narcissistic arrogance
is off the charts. It's something beyond the merely annoying arrogance of a sometimes-obnoxious individual.
What is narcissistic arrogance and how can we cope with it?
- Unrecognized Bullying: I
- 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 some bullying as bullying.
- Incoherent Initiatives
- Mission statements of organizational initiatives serve as recruiting instruments as advocates seek support
for their missions. When advocates compromise coherence of mission to maximize the depth and breadth
of support, trouble looms.
See also Devious Political Tactics and Workplace Politics for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 29: Time Slot Recycling: The Risks
- When we can't begin a meeting because some people haven't arrived, we sometimes cancel the meeting and hold a different one, with the people who are in attendance. It might seem like a good way to avoid wasting time, but there are risks. Available here and by RSS on March 29.
- And on April 5: The Fallacy of Division
- Errors of reasoning are pervasive in everyday thought in most organizations. One of the more common errors is called the Fallacy of Division, in which we assume that attributes of a class apply to all members of that class. It leads to ridiculous results. Available here and by RSS on April 5.
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