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The dangerous influence: manipulation

Influence and manipulation are related concepts, but there is a big difference between them. Influence can be dangerous to the environment in itself, because it can work when it is used to influence others, which takes up other people’s time and energy. But influencing is always a positive action, because the person who influences does not mean harm to others. They are driven by their own selfishness, but they do not want to harm their colleagues or the organisation. Manipulation goes even further, since it uses the ability to influence even when it knows that it is not doing the person being influenced any good, and forces decisions that are harmful to the company. This is why manipulation is a dangerous form of influence, which of course does not manifest itself in every situation, but if it prevails, it can cause serious damage.

The perfect professionals

It is a challenge even for experienced organisational developers to find manipulative people within an organisation and point them out for their managers. That is why very few professionals worldwide are dealing with this issue. Moreover, in the world of HR, which has shifted in recent decades towards talking only about the positive, who would want to hear about a factor that in the end has no positives? All it does is create tensions, arguments, negative things to say about a particular colleague who is usually praised, so it’s just not worth it. It can result in the loss of contracts for the organisational developer – which is a concrete loss of money – and, moreover, since manipulative colleagues always end up under a weak leader and can stay there permanently, even the image of the leader is not very flattering. So who needs all this just to reveal the truth? Moreover, unlike influence, manipulation is always much slower to take effect, so that negative consequences can take years, often a decade, to emerge, and there is no point in alarming anyone in advance. You can’t measure it anyway, and it may not even become clear during the period of cooperation. But it is important to know that when a problem occurs, it is usually a shattering one for the organisation. After all, manipulative colleagues are perfect professionals in most cases. So they work and bring very concrete, outstanding results to the table. They can often be said to be the “dream colleagues”. Unlike influencing colleagues, they can actually put in the extra time to become more indispensable and gain more and more power within the company. Of course, this power should not be too blatant for a long time, because then the vanity of it will be exposed.

The perception of manipulation

To get out of a crisis, every company needs a manipulative colleague, manager, or decision-maker. After all, they are the ones who can really move even dying markets with their presence, their expertise and their extra ideas. They can get people to buy, they can force decisions out of partners. They get paid for it, and if possible, they usually ask for a position. This gives them the opportunity to develop their own “little kingdom”. If they work in sales, they master customer relations, if they are in the back office, they gather the best professionals around them, the ones who believe only in them. This is what makes the big bang when they make a move. Because everyone in the little kingdom they have built is held in enormous esteem, it creates a life for them that they could not even begin to realise themselves, so these people follow their manipulative leader everywhere. Clients do the same, and well, if the leader oversees a whole area, sooner or later, but at some point, he will move and take it all with him. When you look at it like that, you can see why you need to be aware of who in your company, in your team, has the right skills. Is a manipulative person clearly negative? They have a tremendous sense of justice, and because of that they will never attack a fair person or company unless they have a good reason. But they protect their own people with fire and brimstone and lavish them with knowledge and wealth. Not bad for a manipulative leader, they say, but the main thing is to be on their team!