In last week's post, I began to explore social exclusion tactics in the workplace-political context. I noted that social exclusion tactics are used broadly, and that this context is special. In workplace politics, social exclusion is used mainly to establish or maintain control or dominance, or to prevail in workplace debates. To illustrate, I explored how excluders can use the professional role of the target as a basis for executing exclusion tactics, and suggested one possible response to use when you find yourself being excluded.
Let's now continue that exploration of how excluders execute their tactics. I'll close with a brief look at the organizational consequences of social exclusion, and what it takes to prevent the use of these tactics. As in Part I, I use the name Marie to denote a person using social exclusion politically, and the name Geoff to denote the person she is targeting.
- Organizational affiliation of the target
- When Geoff's organizational affiliation is what Marie seeks to exclude, her choice of tactics is more limited than it would be if she were trying to exclude Geoff's professional role. For example, the Project Management Office might have issued a rule that a representative of the office must participate in certain kinds of meetings. If Geoff is the designated representative, then Marie might be unable to simply exclude him from the invitation list. Even so, she can send him notification of the meeting later than she sends it to other attendees, or she can deliver documents to him later than to others, or she can schedule meetings that he can't attend due to conflicts, travel, or vacations. Or she can organize agendas so that the most sensitive topics fall during parts of the meeting that Geoff cannot attend due to conflicts.
- Just as Social exclusion can be based on
professional role, organizational
affiliation, or personal attributesMarie's options are more limited in this case, Geoff's options are limited as well. To support a claim that she is intentionally disadvantaging him, Geoff must have access to the schedules of other attendees, or access to the email messages sent by Marie to other attendees. Because it's unlikely that he can get such access, Geoff might have difficulty securing data supporting his claim of social exclusion. In that case, Geoff must be cleverer.
- For example, he can post on his calendar fake meetings, medical appointments, or other commitments to tempt Marie to adjust her meetings or meeting agendas to conflict with Geoff's fake calendar items. When he attends Marie's events unexpectedly, he can explain, if asked, that his other conflicting commitment was cancelled. Or Geoff can work with IT to sort out his "email problem," which results in his not receiving Marie's messages when everyone else does. IT might discover that Geoff hadn't been added to the appropriate distribution lists, or — more deviously — that he had been added, but his user ID was misspelled. You never know until you ask.
- Ultimately, if the problem persists, Geoff must deal with Marie's actions as a performance issue.
- Personal attributes of the target
- When Marie's motivation for excluding Geoff arises from some of Geoff's personal attributes or history, her actions are most constrained. For example, in the initial scenario described last time, Marie openly opposed Geoff's hiring. In such circumstances, some of her colleagues might be expecting Marie to act with prejudice against Geoff. They might be especially sensitive to Marie's exclusionary tactics. To insulate herself against accusations of exclusion, Marie will need to take actions that seem to include Geoff, and she must carefully cloak any exclusionary actions. Still, if she's clever, and if she has enough close allies, she can get most of what she wants.
- In this case, Geoff's options are also limited. For example, in the initial scenario described last time, he might be unaware that Marie opposed his hiring. And few others would be inclined to tell him. In cases like that, and others, Geoff might have no reason to expect social exclusion. He might even be unaware of it until it has already affected his performance. There isn't much Geoff can do to deal with something he knows nothing about.
- Knowledge of Marie's tactics is fundamental to developing useful responses. That's why Geoff's highest priority, whether he's a new hire or an old hand, is to enhance his situational awareness. For example, Marie might be making deprecatory comments about Geoff at meetings he doesn't or can't attend: "Looks like Geoff is still too busy to attend our meetings." Evidence that she's attacking him can be helpful when he ultimately registers a complaint.
The consequences of social exclusion for Geoff are obvious. If he's a new hire or a transfer, social exclusion tactics delay — and in some cases prevent — his orientation to his new responsibilities and his integration into the group. But he is also at risk of failing to perform. If Geoff is already in place when he becomes a target of social exclusion tactics, his performance will gradually degrade.
The consequences for the organization are no less severe, but they're more likely to be misunderstood. Management likely believes that they've provided the necessary resources to meet organizational goals, and indeed they have. But because Marie has effectively compromised Geoff's performance, Management is likely to identify Geoff's poor performance as the root cause of the failure to attain organizational goals. In fact, his performance has been poor, but it isn't the root cause of the organizational disappointment. A more fundamental cause is Marie's use of social exclusion tactics. Replacing Geoff, which is the likely next step most managers would take, won't address this more fundamental cause.
Preventing the practice of social exclusion requires open monitoring of meeting invitations, online discussions, meeting scheduling practices, access to information sharing platforms, or any other activities that provide team leads opportunities to decide who participates in what. Prevention is better than repair. 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
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Illegal Dumping
- To solve problems, we change existing policies or processes, or we create new ones. We try to make things
better and sometimes we actually succeed. More often, we create new problems — typically, for
- On Noticing
- What we fail to notice about any situation — and what we do notice that isn't really there —
can be the difference between the outcomes we fear, the outcomes we seek, and the outcomes that exceed
our dreams. How can we improve our ability to notice?
- Managing Non-Content Risks: II
- When we manage risk, we usually focus on those risks most closely associated with the tasks at hand
— content risks. But there are other risks, to which we pay less attention. Many of these are
outside our awareness. Here's Part II of an exploration of these non-content risks, emphasizing those
that relate to organizational politics.
- Passive Deceptions at Work
- Among the vast family of workplace deceptions, those that involve camouflage are both the most common
and the most difficult to detect. Here's a look at how passive camouflage can play a role in workplace
- Reframing Revision Resentment: I
- From time to time, we're required to revise something previously produced — some copy, remarks,
an announcement, code, the Mona Lisa, whatever… When we do, some of us experience frustration,
and view the assignment as an onerous chore. Here are some alternative perspectives that might ease
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 12: Cognitive Biases at Work
- Cognitive biases can lead us to misunderstand situations, overlook options, and make decisions we regret. The patterns of thinking that lead to cognitive biases provide speed and economy advantages, but we must manage the risks that come along with them. Available here and by RSS on August 12.
- And on August 19: Motivated Reasoning: I
- When we prefer a certain outcome of a decision process, we risk falling into a pattern of motivated reasoning. That can cause us to gather data and construct arguments that lead to the outcome we prefer, often outside our awareness. And it can happen even when the outcome we prefer is known to threaten our safety and security. Available here and by RSS on August 19.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- 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.
- Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.