At some point in our lives we have all run across manipulative people. Perhaps it was a friend, relative, salesperson, coworker, supervisor, customer, tenant, or casual acquaintance. Perhaps we didn’t even recognize it as they manipulated the facts or situation to their benefit, or perhaps we did see it but were helpless to counter their behavior.
The motivation for the manipulator can be varied. Some see manipulation as a way to get what they want in life. They feel that by controlling other people’s thoughts and actions they can also control the agenda. Others look at manipulation as a way to deflect attention from their own inadequacies. These individuals have insecurity in their own ability or have failed to properly execute tasks to which they were responsible. They manipulate the situation by calling attention to problems in other areas so that the troubles in their areas are overlooked. Still other manipulators are factual manipulators. They take statistics to paint a picture to arrive at a conclusion they may believe is right, even though it is very wrong. In many cases these manipulators are passive and unaware of their error until it is pointed out to them, but by that time they have committed to the incorrect conclusion and will defend it rather than to admit the mistake.
In his book, In Sheep’s Clothing, Dr. George Simon states that all of us have used manipulation at some point in our lives. But he insists that does not make us all manipulators. He cites manipulators as those that habitually and aggressively manipulate. According to Simon, “The tactics of deceit, manipulation and control are a steady diet for covert-aggressive personality. It's the way they prefer to deal with others and to get the things they want in life.”
The key to working with manipulators is to recognize their behavior and deal with it. Robert Bacal, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dealing with Difficult People says the critical message is “it isn’t going to with me.” The manipulator seeks those that they control and you have to position yourself away from the target of their behavior through the proper actions early in their game.
In many workplace cultures a bad employee is dealt with by their manager working hard to get them transferred to another department. They forget the manipulative individual will then be working against them as they twist facts to make their new department outshine their old area. Therefore it is imperative for managers to deal directly with the manipulative person directly.
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