The Games They Play: How to Handle Manipulators in the Workplace

Posted by Creatiq Support | Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Games They Play: How to Handle Manipulators in the Workplace

Posted by Creatiq Support | Thursday, September 7, 2017

As a supervisor, you strive to develop transparent communication, a
supportive work environment, and a highly effective team. All those efforts are
undermined, however, by the subversive game tactics of office manipulators.
Below are just a few roles that office manipulators take on, and how you can
manage them and stop their games.

The Information

Fearing change, the information broker needs to control the communication
flow. They can make it difficult for new employees to go through the onboarding
process simply by blocking information — such as training procedures, project
updates, or last-minute meeting room changes. And if they decide that a
seasoned employee has become a threat, they may start a covert campaign using
the same tactics.

Whenever a conflict arises regarding communication flow, document the
situation and find the short circuit. Look for the same names that pop up in
each case, and determine who is holding back information.

The Offloader

This article
by Sarah Michael states that the offloader has learned how to keep as little on
their plate as possible. They have a knack of getting other workers to do even
a part of their work, Michael tells us. That way, others can take the blame if
something goes wrong.

To manage the offloader, document the assignments you give them. Make
instructions and deadlines clear. And let them know that they and they alone
will be responsible for outcomes.

The Invalidator

This manipulator is an expert at finding subtle (or not so subtle) ways to
devalue others. An invalidator may dismiss your comments with a silent roll of
the eyes, or with a brief comment like “I’ll just deal with the other
manager instead.”

This Biz
article offers the following strategy to manage invalidation: First,
neutrally reflect back what the person is saying: “It sounds like you have
some misgivings working with me.” Second, refrain from showing any
negative emotion. Simply state what the facts are: “Unfortunately, I’m the
shift manager on duty, and Katie’s meeting with a client. How can we make this

The Bully 

These aggressors make demands on other employees in an intimidating manner
so that they’re less likely to stand up for themselves. They may shout to
coerce somebody into doing their work, or intimidate a supervisor when
confronted with an issue about their attendance or work until the matter is

Organizational consultant and executive coach Peter DeMarco’s Forbes article
tells us that when you face bullying behavior, stand firm, but safely and
neutrally call the bluff. Don’t be stunned by their explosive reaction. Rather,
respond only with the facts at hand. 

These are just a few of the roles a manipulator in the workplace can
take on. However, manipulators can wear many hats to feel in control of their
work environment. You’ll need to look out for patterns of behavior, and
eventually confront the manipulator. Here are some ways to prepare:

  • Review your
    company’s policies on insubordination.
  • Put a
    professional to work behind the scenes to observe your team, gather
    information, and analyze the group dynamics.
  • Hire a
    consultant to perform a 360-degree personality evaluation on your team
    members and present a comprehensive report.
  • When you have
    all the facts, call a meeting and talk with the manipulative employee
    directly. Let them know you are listening. And when they ask questions,
    state the facts.

In conclusion, DeMarco finds that all manipulators have one thing in common:
They distort the realities of the workplace with their own fictions. The answer
is to document what’s really going on, pull the curtain back, and replace the
distorted narrative with the truth so that everyone can move on.