Persuasion and manipulation are two workplace activities that follow many of the same paths yet have different means of achieving their ends. Some managers will engage in persuasion while others will lean towards manipulation. Those who are engaged in persuasion are more likely to gain the respect of their employees while those who are more manipulative often receive immediate gratification but loose out on long-term effectiveness. Companies should recognize and remove manipulators to ensure a positive work environment.
Persuasion is an attempt to show certain facts in a positive light without hiding or leaving out crucial information. It is generally a positive experience. Ultimately the listener can make a free choice on the issue as all the important information is presented to them. The influencer seeks to create a prevailing logic that both parties can agree with that leads from agreement to performance. Manipulation attempts to leave out particular facts and distort their meaning in an effort to change the perception of events.
When trust and persuasion are high the managers words are highly palatable to the listener. The managers experience and knowledge of the situation can help the employee make a better decisions as to their next course of action. When trust is low, and manipulation is high, the immediate gain takes precedence over long-term solutions. Employees could become resistant to the managers wishes and find ways of thwarting their influence.
The risk manipulators face is that someday they may become discovered. A simple discovery of manipulated facts leads to resentment, destruction of trust, and an active attempt to undermine the manager. Employees often respond to manipulators by avoidance and attempting to hold the perpetrator accountable (Bryand & Sias, 2011). The violation of a persons integrity leads to further conflict.
Workplace do not function well off of manipulative tactics as organizational culture will come to reflect that inherent lack of trust and respect. Organizations that do not seek to gain employee trust through open and honest dialogue will ultimately find themselves lacking in performance, embroiled in workplace conflict, involved in legal suits, and suffering from chronic staff turnover.
Discerning between those who are persuasive and those who are manipulators can be difficult. According to Robin Dreeke, the head of behavioral analysis at the FBI, trust becomes a central issue in developing positive relationships and manipulators have a hard time creating long-term trust (Nahai, 2013). Manipulators are focused on their own needs and often leave others with buyers remorse through unfulfilled promises and self-seeking behavior.
Manipulators have an inherent disrespect for the integrity of other people and don't see much point in telling the truth. Manipulators exhibit higher levels of Machiavellianism and lower levels of agreeableness that correspond to personality disorders (Wischniewski & Dipl-Psycho, 2013). They will use whatever means work and seek to punish those who do not agree with their methods leading to a retaliatory environment.
All employment sectors are open to the power of manipulators. Whether you are in business, non-profit work, law enforcement, political positions or any other type of employment manipulators can and do exist. Organizations would do well to screen those who manipulate for self-seeking gain in order to reduce potential risks and raise the trust factor among employees and stakeholders.
The higher the position and the more authority the position has the greater the destructive power of manipulation. People unwittingly give unconditional support to certain societal members based upon positional or institutional status. Those less likely to be manipulated are the ones who can question the decision-making processes regardless of the position of the manipulator. Questioning creates critical thinking beyond simple assumptions.
Manipulators are not only dangerous in their personal relationships but also the organizations where they work. In the business world we have idealized people in movies and popular media who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals without regard to the impact on others. Calm,cool, and collect is immortalized. The ends do not justify the means as manipulators eventually ruin previously positive work environments and do incalculable damage to the organizations where they are employed. Creating cultures where manipulation is thwarted and persuasion is appreciated not only shows a level of respect for employees and co-workers but also leads to stronger corporate cultures.
Bryand, E. & Sias, P. (2011). Sensemaking and relational consequences of peer co-worker deception. Communication Monographs, 78 (1).
Nahai, N. (Sept 21, 2013). Trust, Persuasion, and Manipulation. Psychology Today. Retrieve from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/webs-influence/201309/trust-persuasion-and-manipulation
Wischniewski, J. & Dipl-Psych, B. (2013). Personality disorder respond to norm violations? Impact of personality factors on economic decision-making. Journal of Personality Disorders, 27 (4).