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MANIPULATION: how to recognize and stop emotional manipulation at work.

Recently, people have started to take more care of their emotional comfort, including in the office. Everyone wants to have a healthy emotional atmosphere at work. Despite this, psychological manipulation still exists.

The word manipulation comes from the Latin manipulus, the root manus - "hand". The original meaning - action based on sleight of hand - referred, for example, to puppeteers who, with dexterous tricks, made the dolls dance. Later the word acquired a different, figurative meaning - a trick, a machination. People are usually unhappy if they find they have been manipulated. It is believed that they, as if by invisible threads, did not lead to the result that they themselves would have desired.

Manipulation is a technology of power.

Faced with manipulation, a person experiences feelings of frustration, guilt, resentment, and generally loses confidence. Working for a manipulator can lead to health problems. Employees who were unlucky with their boss showed low levels of job satisfaction and a high risk of developing depression.

A manipulative boss is not so uncommon: statistics show that 55% of 3,000 respondents are familiar with situations where the management spoils the mood, is rude, insults and humiliates.

Manipulation is the most common and widely used way to get what you want, whether you are in the role of a boss or a subordinate.

At the same time, the manipulation will work only when both sides "collaborate" - the victim and manipulator, they both understand the game and they accept to play this game consciously or subconsciously.

If you react to the signals of the manipulator and in response to them change your opinions, goals, habits, then the manipulation works.

Types of manipulations:


Intimidation tactics. "There are no irreplaceable people." Hints that you are about to fail and the cost of making a mistake is very high. Frequent criticism and nagging will add depth to the experience, especially if the employee is not particularly confident in himself. The fear tactic works best on people with increased anxiety.


An urgent alarm, a rush job, a message in a messenger in the middle of a vacation and a phrase like "If not you, then who?" , "This is a particularly demanding task that no one in the world can cope with. And only you, only now (already three in the morning).

Works very well with responsible people with perfectionist tendencies. A visual image: what workaholism looks like.


Any mistake, takes on the features of a catastrophe that forever changed the world.

The employee is hinted at situations in which he has not participated. Sometimes the manipulator speaks about non-existent things so convincingly that it begins to seem that it is true. Sometimes sarcastic, too personal comments from the boss, with the comment "I am joking". Here, many are confused, begin to doubt their reactions.

It is working on people with a sense of their own guilt, on those who, instead of saying: "I will not tolerate comments about my dog" or "Ok, could be wrong, where to fix it?" - start panicking.


There are subordinates who are ready to move mountains, it is worth letting them understand that they are the chosen ones, they have a special role and a special position. Alternating flattery and a disappointed look. For example, a person is about to leave the office at seven o'clock in the evening, and the boss shakes his head disapprovingly: "Well, well, I didn't expect this from you ..." And that's it - the ashamed employee turns on the computer again.

The blows to self-esteem are especially painful for people who strive for high results, dream of achievements, and want to be the best. They perceive the loss not as a game, but as a personal insult.


The manipulator can share with you managers secrets, creating a confidential atmosphere, intrigue. And then suddenly pretend to be mysterious, stop sharing, start responding with hints. And blame for leaks.

It works on people who are looking to be part of special closed groups to feel special and connected.


The game of miserability is built in such a way to awaken sympathy and guilt: “If you don’t help me, I don’t even know what to do ...”, “Nobody cares about my problems”. Miserable-me tactics can be very powerful. But in the end, all the sufferers go home, and the compassionate employee while away the night over the report.

The technique works with empathic people inclined to altruism.


Appropriate or inappropriate seduction. The manipulator may use charm, flattery, or openly demonstrate sexual interest.

Typical harassment tactics are to pretend their inappropriate behavior is perfectly normal, and to grab the secretaries by the knees, spanking, frequently doing high-fives is a common daily thing. The answer "no", which the victim mutters, is not taken as an answer, and the aggressor shows rare persistence. Another common technique is to make it clear that the employee owes his boss, because he helped his career so much, and how he can influence it in the future - oh-ho-ho!

It works on people who believe that they should be nice and docile, especially in the face of their superiors.


As a response to manipulation: The first - when you don’t understand that someone manipulates you and act in accordance with the expectations of the aggressor. This is how you communicate that this is normal practice for you.

The second - when you understand that someone is manipulating you, it makes you angry or upset, you hide all your aggression inside you and you act in accordance with the expectations of the aggressor.

The third - when you understand that someone is manipulating you, it makes you angry or upset, and you start to set boundaries in a very aggressive way of communication.

The fourth - maybe you understand or maybe not that it was a manipulation, but you can very calmly communicate about your boundaries.

Understanding your boundaries begins with the ability to answer yourself the questions: who I am and why I am doing this job. Such a view allows you to independently assess yourself at work, to see successes and failures. If you have a clear view of yourself as a specialist and your own position, then it will be extremely difficult to manipulate you.

The boss has the right to evaluate the results of your work, to reward you or withdraw financial compensation without allowing himself personal attacks.

5 effective methods of stopping manipulation

Analysis of the situation. What words have the greatest emotional impact on you and why? If you will find the answer to the question "Why?" And understand that this is only the meaning that you give to this word. And when you hear them again - control your feelings, do not give in to emotions and try to ignore the attempts. And choose to ignore it or calmly communicate about your boundaries.

Awareness of the purpose of manipulation. Once you realize that someone manipulates you, let the manipulator know that you know his plans. And very calmly ask - why are you doing this? If you need help - ask, and if I have time I will help you. Please don’t play this game with me again.

The importance of the word no. Learn to say NO. However, try to do this not in a harsh and categorical manner. Since such a reaction can cause serious conflict and create a tense atmosphere in the team. In a calm tone, tell your colleague the list of priority tasks assigned to you and tell them that at the moment you do not have time to solve additional tasks.

A clear definition of responsibilities. Your colleague carries out several assignments. And when it comes to a specific deadline, he, indignant, begins to complain about the pressure and list of uncompleted tasks. At the same time, he is sincerely convinced that he is “burning” at work for the benefit and vision of the company. Another employee, hiding behind imaginary helplessness and favorite phrase “What do you want from me? He tries to shift his responsibilities onto the shoulders of others”. Protection from such manipulation can be a manager's assessment of the effectiveness of each member of the team and a clear delineation of responsibilities, recorded in the job description.

The rule of "three reasons". If the manipulator accuses you of not helping him, do not rush to make excuses. Instead, use the “three reasons” rule to explain why this is how things turned out. The first two reasons should substantiate the essence of the issue, and the third can summarize. Your phrase may sound like this: “Firstly, I was not previously warned about the situation. Secondly, my work schedule is full. And thirdly, this is not my job responsibility." This will put a fat point on the discussion of such issues for a long time.

Before starting any sorting out process or setting boundaries, make sure that you are completely calm, that you do not cheat yourself or explode with every additional manipulation by your boss. Sit down and write what exactly happened, how you see it, what is the meaning that you give to this situation and how you want to change it, read it, maybe after reading you will see additional things. If you cannot cope with the situation or calm down, seek help from a specialist.

And the last one - each of us sees reality and situation differently. Each of us comes to a new place of work with professionalism, the ability to solve complex problems, but also with a basket of unresolved conflicts from previous jobs and current family. There are so many subtleties. Develop your self-confidence, your personal mental balance, try to understand people and don’t punish them for the way they are, because sometimes they just don’t know how to do it differently.

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