If you feel bad about office politics that go on around you, you are certainly not alone. In any group of more than one, people will be trying to influence each other and some people use less savoury tactics or dirty tricks, in order to get their way.
Here are some of the more common dirty tricks which people use. Many of them were featured in our best-selling book, 21 Dirty Tricks at Work: How to Win the Game of Office Politics. These are shared here not as a game tip sheet, but rather a preparation for recognising them for what they are (office politics) and then learning how to overcome them with honesty, integrity and a fair degree of assertion.
My Hands Are Tied
Pretending to be helpless due to the influence of a higher authority or process when, under the same circumstances but with a different person, there would be a different outcome. “Sorry, Ben, but the policy is…”
Email to the Gods
Using email to shame or coerce another. This is usually an email arriving from a colleague (which includes either true or false information), levelling accusations of blame, which are also copied on to bosses, directors, customers, suppliers, etc.
Tell Me More
The tactic of delaying decisions or honest disclosure by requesting more work, research or data which often includes the efforts of others.
The tactic of coercing another by suggesting that friends in high places are supporters/detractors and will be drafted unless agreement is quickly forthcoming.
Exaggerating involvement in the ideas and good work of others or blatantly stealing them and hiding the originators’ worthy contributions.
Deliberately timing the delivery of dishonest, false or critical feedback to deflect, distract or undermine another.
The tactic of motivating someone to take on a task, project or assignment they might reasonably refuse, by pretending that it is a development opportunity.
The tactic of reorganising a team or department specifically to get an unwanted person out.
We’re Right Behind You
The tactic of setting someone up as spokesperson, encouraging risk taking and falsely suggesting back-up and support, which will usually vanish at the first sign of conflict or problems.
Making vague promises about future rewards to encourage people to take on unpleasant assignments, put in more effort or take greater risks.
Avoiding work or responsibility by pretending to be overstretched and overworked.
Rock and a Hard Place
Manipulating people by offering limited or fixed choices, expecting the victim to choose the lesser of two evils.
The tactic of deliberately hiding or obscuring vital information in reports or presentations so that the one critical factor goes unnoticed and another person or party is duped into making a bad decision or drawing the wrong conclusions.
While the Cat Is Away
Waiting until the important decision maker is away to use the delegated authority to push through decisions, which they would otherwise challenge or block.
Ball and Chain
Ensuring that a talented team member is denied a rightful and deserved promotion opportunity to ensure they stay and protect the manager’s self-interest.
Fall Guy/The Patsy
Assigning projects or tasks that are destined to fail to an expendable manager, so that they can be blamed for the failure or to reassign favoured employees away from reputation-threatening failure.
The tactic of releasing bad news at a time when other people will be too distracted by other, more pressing, events to notice or to care.
Knowing that someone is in a problematic situation, but standing on the side-lines, doing nothing, when intervention is appropriate and would be helpful to the business.
Sending people to ‘Coventry’ — ignoring or excluding them from social events and activities in order to punish them.
The Photocopier Game
Deliberately leaving important (sometimes false) information lying around for others to discover, e.g. a document ‘accidentally’ left on the photocopier for others to discover.
The tactic of being ‘skilfully incompetent’ so that others might feel obliged to take over unwanted tasks.
The tactic of leaving people off distribution lists so they miss important meetings or information.