Jennifer's supervisor, Darth, knows that Jennifer wants to lead an upcoming project.
He also knows that he and the project sponsor, Sandy, have already chosen someone
else for the position without posting the opportunity publicly, which is contrary
to company policy. To conceal their subterfuge, they won't be announcing their decision
until next month.
Meanwhile, Jennifer has asked Darth to help her get the assignment, but Darth
doesn't want to tell her the bad news. Since he also doesn't want to disappoint her,
he wants her to believe that he's trying to help her. So before their next weekly one-on-
one meeting in Darth's office, Darth composes an email message to Sandy that
recommends Jennifer for the position, but he doesn't send the message. He prints it,
and leaves the hardcopy on his desk, with a few revisions marked, as if he's working
on the wording.
He arranges to be late for his meeting with Jennifer, and calls her mobile phone just
before the meeting. He tells her that he thinks he'll arrive on time, but he might be a
bit late, and if he is, she should wait for him in his office. He's relying on her curiosity-
he expects her to read the fake draft message on his desk. When he arrives, he
hastily gathers the papers on his desk and tucks them into a notebook. Maybe she
reads it, maybe not. If she does, his ploy works.
This is an example of what I call a "cutout of the inanimate kind." It's a way of transferring
false information to someone deniably. In this particular tactic, Darth is also relying on Jenifer's
desire to keep her snooping a secret. That will prevent her from accusing him of deceiving
her about his helping her secure the leadership position.
There are dozens of these devious ploys, and in this program, we examine many of them.
Our purpose is to expose program attendees to the range of devious tactics, so that when
they encounter similar behavior, they won't be as easily manipulated as Darth thought Jennifer
In the seminar formats of this program, participants are encouraged to ask about tactics
they might have witnessed or heard about in their workplaces. We then offer analyses of
what might have been happening, including many possibilities-benign, constructive, and
devious. In this way, participants learn how to develop interpretations of all kinds, not just
the devious ones.
Applications are more varied than one might first expect. Beyond the obvious uses for defending
oneself when personally targeted, applications include:
* Recognizing devious political operators, to note for future reference
* Supporting and advising colleagues
* As a team leader, knowing when to intervene when team members are targeted
* In project risk management, devising mitigations for political risks
Political skills of all kinds are important assets for anyone. Recognizing devious tactics is one
of those skills.