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You Have a Manipulator on the Team If…

Manipulators make you feel bad when you don’t give them what they want.

“… if you fail to comply with his request, a manipulator will try to make you feel bad, selfish, naive, foolish, guilty, or whatever emotion will cause you to capitulate to their desire.” Bob Burg, author of, Adversaries Into Allies.


  1. Advantage themselves.
  2. Disadvantage you. They prime you to complain to the boss. But, they also prime the boss to think you’re a complainer.
  3. Try to endear themselves to others in the process.

Number one tool of manipulators: Sympathy

Manipulators use compassion against you.

You have a manipulator on the team if:

  1. They regularly seek some form of sympathy.
  2. They need exceptions or special treatment.
  3. You’re giving them what they want, against your better judgement.
  4. They constantly feel misunderstood.
  5. They persistently feel unappreciated.
  6. Others are taking advantage of them.
  7. Their challenges are worse than others face.

Bonus: You have a manipulator on the team if they pout when they don’t get their way. Pouting is manipulation. “I’m going to be sad if you don’t give me my way.”

Responding to manipulation:

Bob Burg suggests you avoid:

  1. Defensiveness.
  2. Aggression.
  3. Excuses.

“Respond by very politely letting the person know that you choose not to take that action. ‘Thank you for your request; it’s not something I’d like to do.’” Bob Burg

Managing manipulators:

  1. Practice radical transparency. Secrecy is a manipulator’s friend.
  2. Make goals and assignments public.
  3. Ask the obvious. “Do you want special treatment, while others are stepping up to the plate?

One of the most dangerous teammates is the manipulator. The more sympathy you give, the more they need.

How do you spot manipulators?

How might managers deal with a manipulator on the team?

**Recommended reading: “Adversaries Into Allies: Win People Over Without Manipulation or Coercion.” It’s much more than a book about spotting manipulators!

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