Do you ever feel that you are being pushed over to do something that you promised yourself you would not? Has it ever happened that you walk into a meeting with enthusiasm, and by the time it is over, you feel drained and bullied? Do you dread compliments from your boss because it could turn into additional assignments beyond your role?
Often it happens that we walk into a situation with honesty, only to walk out feeling manipulated. So, how do you pre-empt manipulation, anticipate what is happening and prevent it? You can be a smarter than Jessica in Season 3 of Suits, when she was manipulated by Scottie into giving him a legal case.
Psychologist Mary Casey, author of How to Deal With Master Manipulators, says these kinds of people are hard to recognise. Open bullying can be easily identified, but covert manipulation is more difficult to spot. Such people are always full of compliments, but one giveaway sign is gossiping about others behind their backs.
A good guide can be your intuition. If you get negative vibes from someone, or feel frustrated or anxious at work, without pointing out the reason, you might be getting manipulated. They also stick up to the boss. They change their statements outside and inside conference rooms. They ask seemingly harmless questions, but try to gather in all information. You can also identify some vultures in your office who manipulate behaviour.
You can counter such manipulative behaviour using some simple work hacks.
Make it clear to them what you will accept and not accept, in words and actions. If you are being requested by them to make PPTs with the compliment that you are very good at presentation, reject the request with a simple thank you. Tesla would have saved himself much grief if he had not taken up the challenge by Edison regarding the AC electricity transmission system.
If they seem to start the blame-game, stay focussed on the issue at hand. Remind the group of the sequence of events and end with a resolution note. So, all know that you focus more on solution than the problem. After the recent train derailing incidents, Modi rejected Suresh Prabhu’s resignation because the issue required a responsible ministerial response, not an escape tactic.
Do not respond to over-friendly overtures from the person. Do not participate in gossip mongering with them. You can also dodge curious questions from them. Say “No” firmly and politely for requests beyond your reasonable call of duty.
Diplomacy is an art necessary in everyday life, and you can surely practise it with work ethics to protect yourself from manipulation.