In Part I of our exploration of behavioral assessment at work, we examined some relatively innocuous attributes of questions — ambiguity, arcane vocabulary, erroneous assumptions, and inappropriate language. But some people ask questions that are intended to rattle the person questioned, to assess their ability to maintain composure, or to reduce their stature. That is, in a public setting, in a strategy that relies for its effectiveness on ego depletion, the questioner might intend to cause the person questioned to lose composure, leading to regrettably embarrassing behavior, or worse.
Here are some of the hostile approaches in use. As in Part I, we use Alpha as the name of the Asker (a female), and Tango as the name of the Target (a male).
- If the question contains insinuations about others…
- Does Tango defend people in their absence? Does he ask about the details of the insinuation? Is he interested in gossip?
- Does Tango consider all possibilities? Alpha might be trying to discover how Tango handles invitations to gossip. Or perhaps she merely seeks information.
- If it's insulting…
- Does Tango take offense? Or does he ask Alpha whether she is aware of the offense, before enlightening her?
- Alpha might be trying to determine whether, how, or how effectively Tango stands up for himself.
- If it's already been asked repeatedly…
- Is Tango Some people ask questions that
are intended to rattle the person
questioned, to assess their ability
to maintain composure, or to
reduce their statureimpatient? Does he lose control when Alpha repeats the same question in different forms? Or does he ask Alpha what was missing from his previous answers?
- Asking the same question repeatedly, in different forms, can be annoying, because it can indicate distrust, suspicion, or disrespect for Tango's time. How does Tango deal with repetitive questioning?
- If the questioner interrupts repeatedly…
- After Alpha interrupts Tango in mid-response, can Tango resume and smoothly continue his response? Or does he have trouble remembering what he was about to say?
- Mental quickness and excellent short-term memory can be valuable assets. How quick is Tango? How good is his memory? Can he thrive in contention with the sharp minds on this team?
- If the questioner asks four questions at once…
- As Tango responds, can he remember all four questions? This is another test of memory and mental agility.
- Combining this test with repeated interruptions can reveal much about Tango's abilities under pressure, but only if Alpha can keep the four questions straight herself.
- If it's arrogant and condescending
- When Alpha's manner is brusque, condescending, or disrespectful, does Tango address the affront? How? Can he disarm her?
- Knowing Tango's abilities in contentious situations can be useful to Alpha if she must deal with him in the future, whether as friend or foe.
There are no right answers. Much depends on the relationship between Alpha and Tango. But Tango can probably achieve better results by preparing for these situations than he can achieve unprepared. First in this series Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- The Advantages of Political Attack: II
- In workplace politics, attackers are often surprisingly successful with even the flimsiest assertions.
Often, they prevail, in part, because they can choose the time and venue for their attacks. They also
have the advantage of preparation. How can targets respond effectively?
- The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Obvious Waste
- Among the most futile and irrelevant actions ever taken in crisis is rearranging the deck chairs of
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- No Tangles
- When we must say "no" to people who have superior organizational power, the message sometimes
fails to get across. The trouble can be in the form of the message, the style of delivery, or elsewhere.
How does this happen?
- Not Really Part of the Team: II
- When some team members hang back, declining to show initiative, we tend to overlook the possibility
that their behavior is a response to something happening within or around the team. Too often we hold
responsible the person who's hanging back. What other explanations are possible?
- Exploiting Functional Fixedness: I
- Functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that creates difficulty in seeing novel uses of things that
have familiar uses. Some devious moves in workplace politics exploit functional fixedness.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- In workplace debates, we sometimes conclude erroneously that only stupidity can explain why our debate partners fail to grasp the elegance or importance of our arguments. There are many other possibilities. Available here and by RSS on July 24.
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- When I have an important insight, or when I'm taught a lesson, I write it down. Here's Part IV from my personal collection. Available here and by RSS on July 31.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
- On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached
the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the
race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical
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lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look
at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read
more about this program. Here's a date for this program:
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44017: November 7,
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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.