Manipulative Insincerity is what happens when you neither Care Personally nor Challenge Directly. It’s praise that is non-specific and insincere or criticism that is neither clear nor kind. It’s the kind of backstabbing, political, passive-aggressive behavior that might be fun to tell stories about but makes for a toxic workplace, ruining relationships and ruining work. One way to determine whether or not you’re operating from this quadrant is to ask yourself, “Am I talking about someone instead of to someone?” If the answer is yes, welcome to “Manipulative Insincerity.”
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About the episode
People give praise and criticism that is manipulatively insincere when they are too focused on being liked or they think they can gain some sort of political advantage by being fake, or when they are too tired to care or argue any more.
While studies show that Manipulative Insincerity can be exacerbated in a remote environment, Jason, Amy and podcast producer Brandi Neal discuss how it really doesn’t take much distance between people for them to start operating from the Manipulative Insincerity quadrant.
A study published in the journal Organization Science found that lack of mutual knowledge among remote workers makes people less likely to give co-workers the benefit of the doubt.
This means that millions of people who are working from home for the first time don’t have insight into what’s going on with their co-workers, and that can change how they perceive each other.
While working remotely (or even on a different floor of the same building as a co-worker), if you get a brusque email from a co-worker you’re more likely to make up your own story in your head about that person and less likely to reach out and find out what’s causing that person stress. On the other hand, if you got the same email from a workmate sitting in the next cubicle, you’d be less likely to have a negative reaction because you have more insight into what’s happening with that person, an article in Harvard Business Review, A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers, explains.
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Often we think that we are doing something from a place of Ruinous Empathy — caring too much about the other person’s feelings, while what’s really happening is more Manipulative Insincerity — we’re worried about what other people will think of us. Here are three tips to avoid the Manipulative Insincerity trap.
- Don’t try to prevent, control, or manage other people’s emotions. Focus on the other person’s needs and not your fear. There are fewer faster paths to Manipulative Insincerity than imagining you can control another person’s emotional reactions or maneuver around them. To build Radically Candid relationships do acknowledge emotions and react compassionately when emotions run high. And do try to manage your reactions to other people’s emotions.
- Talk to people, not about people. Criticizing a person behind their back is much the same thing as using a bullhorn and doing it publicly, only worse. It will get back to them, and it will earn you a reputation for back-stabbing.
- Over-index on information sharing. As the Harvard Business Review notes, “newly remote workers are often surprised by the added time and effort needed to locate information from coworkers. Even getting answers to what seem like simple questions can feel like a large obstacle to a worker based at home.” So take the time to bring everyone along: Measure twice, cut once.
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