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Manipulation in the workplace: Study finds dishonesty hard to detect

Workplace
According to a recent paper published by the Journal of Applied Psychology, it can be difficult for co-workers to detect manipulation. . File

CALGARY – If you’ve ever offered up some polite laughter to your supervisor’s bad pun, you’re guilty of manipulating your co-workers just a little.

“To a certain extent, there is a baseline level to this sort of thing that everyone engages in in the workplace,” said Joshua Bourdage, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Calgary.

Bourdage said a small amount of manipulation is likely harmless, but problems can arise in work environments when employees routinely use manipulation and dishonesty to get ahead.

“People are more likely to experience stress and burnout, lower job satisfaction and may pressure themselves to start engaging in these sort of behaviours, too. So it can be very cyclical.”

Common examples of workplace manipulation include excessive self-promotion, intimidation, pretending to be busy to appear more dedicated and hardworking, or pretending to be incapable in order to get someone else to do the work.

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According to a recent paper co-authored by Bourdage and published online by the Journal of Applied Psychology, it can be difficult for co-workers to detect manipulation.

“We found that people are generally not good at judging honesty in their co-workers,” he said. “So really the best thing you can do is create a fair workplace that’s low on favouritism, treats people equally, and has clear policies and procedures on how performance is assessed and who gets promotions.”