Tips on Managing Manipulative People

One of the hurdles faced in the workplace that is rarely discussed is manipulative people. These people make work uncomfortable, they drain your energy and they fuel a toxic workplace culture. They divert time from assigned tasks towards unproductive endeavours. However, there are ways to mitigate their actions.

In this article we discuss tips to help you in managing manipulative people at work. First, here are the signs of a manipulative individual in the workplace.

Manipulative people in the workplace work with hidden agendas to get another person to do or say something that the manipulator wants. If your colleague or boss does some of these things, they could be manipulative.

  •       False charm and sympathy
  •       Insincere praise. For instance, someone may say how good you are at a given task, only to leave you with an unfair workload.
  •       Verbal intimidation
  •       Withholding information and facts needed for others to do their work
  •       Passive-aggressive behaviour
  •       Pitting people against each other
  •       Gossip and spreading rumours

How to go about managing a manipulative colleague in the workplace

Acknowledge your feelings

One of the tricks that manipulative people use is they are vague about their actions. You can be left wondering whether what they said was a joke or if it was meant in a negative light. This might leave you distrusting yourself or wondering if you are being too sensitive.

If you are dealing with a manipulative colleague, calmly assess your feelings towards the uncomfortable encounters you have with them. If necessary, bounce these off an objective person you trust. It is important to also trust your gut in this process.

The first step to managing manipulative people in the workplace is to acknowledge that someone is actually trying to manipulate you.

Address the situation

Use honesty when managing manipulative people. Set up an informal meeting with the person to discuss how you feel. This will show them that this is a situation that you take seriously and wish to resolve. If you are not certain about doing this on your own, ask a colleague if they can be present during the conversation.

In the meeting, be clear about how their behaviour negatively affects you. Stay focused on this area and don’t use the time to attack the individual.Next, give them a chance to respond. For clarity, you can share how you hope you would prefer your interactions to be.

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Involve your manager

Some people may not have the self-awareness to know that how they are behaving was harmful to another individual. After a conversation, they might welcome the opportunity to adjust their behaviour.

If nothing changes after you have had a frank conversation with your colleague then it is time to take the matter to your manager. Let the manager know what has been happening and ask for assistance in resolving the issue.

How to go about managing a manipulative boss

Colleagues aren’t the only ones who can exhibit manipulative behaviour. It can be a little more complicated dealing with a manipulative boss but with these tips you can assert your boundaries and eliminate the manipulations from your boss.

Know your rights

Every industry follows certain worker rights. Knowing yours will help you know what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t be doing, what a boss can ask of you and what they cannot. And while some may not be explicitly stated in the employee handbook, everyone has a right to be treated with respect and to feel safe at work; that means both physical and social safety.

Once you know your rights, it will help you to be confident in saying No, if the boss tries to manipulate you into coming in to work on the 3rd consecutive weekend in a row.

Talk to your boss

Addressing the situation works when dealing with either a manipulative colleague or boss. As uncomfortable as it may be, gather your courage and talk to your boss.

Manipulative people like to hide behind vagaries and unclear statements and actions. Counter this by being open about how you have been feeling  about their actions. Ask your boss if they would consider another course of action than the one they have been taking.

If you have weekly check-ins with your boss,  schedule one to talk about this. If these meetings are not part of the work culture, you could be the one to suggest that they start to happen.

Managing manipulative employees: tips for bosses

As strange as it seems, there are bosses who are faced with manipulative employees. An employee may manipulate the boss in order to get a promotion or praise over another colleague. Here’s what you can do.

Take a strong stand

If an employee is manipulative with their manager, chances are high that they exhibit this behaviour with their colleagues too. As a manager, you are not just responsible for your own wellbeing but for that of others as well.

Take a stand by saying No to the employee in question. Let them know where the line is and don’t give in to their manipulations.

Invite a professional

It might be easier for some leaders to say no than others. While you are still mastering how to, invite a mental health professional to give the office a talk on manipulation.

Dealing with the issue in this way will root out the problem for the entire team as opposed to you handling it with one specific employee. It will also show that you are committed to building a positive work culture.

Have clear protocols

People who manipulate boundaries take advantage of the loopholes in the system. If you notice that this is the case, clarify systems in the workplace. Take care that these are not there to stifle your workers, rather to protect them and yourself from manipulative people.

A little compassion may go a long way

Have a sit down with your employee to find out why they feel manipulation is the way to get what they want. Have you ever had the saying, If all you have is a hammer then every problem is a nail? Is this behaviour that has served them well in other contexts?

By inviting them to practise a little self-inquiry, you might lead your employee towards self-improvement.

In Summary

Many people spend more time at work than they do anywhere else. Work needs to be a place where they are comfortable enough not just to do their best work but to be. When faced with manipulative people in the workplace, take action to prevent them from ruining your job satisfaction and mental wellbeing by ensuring you are effectively managing manipulative people.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.