How to Weed Out Master Manipulator Employees


The office can be a tremendous source of creativity and inspiration, but when toxic manipulators are present, you’ll quickly find that one bad apple truly does spoil the bunch. Master manipulators are a leading cause of diminished workplace satisfaction and happiness, moving up the ladder by taking the credit for work they haven’t actually done and manipulating those around them. When manipulators succeed at getting ahead on the backs of other, more productive employees, your workplace is guaranteed to become a powder keg just waiting to explode.

Unfortunately, this type of negative employee behavior can be extremely difficult to pinpoint, and once it’s been identified, the damage has likely already been done. This isn’t a problem you can just ignore and hope that it improves with time - the longer you wait, the more damage will be done. 

This means you could lose your best employees simply because you’re unknowingly rewarding employees who don’t deserve it, with hardworking employees consistently being ignored. In order to get ahead of toxic workplace behavior and promote a healthier, happier workplace, you need to be able to identify office manipulators with clear metrics that prove who’s actually working hard to get ahead, and who’s trying to manipulate management into thinking they’re doing a good job.

What does an office manipulator look like and why are they so bad for your office?

Office manipulators come in all shapes and sizes, doing anything they can to get ahead of other employees, only without doing the necessary work. Office manipulators do toxic things such as take credit for the hard work of other employees, bully or purposely undermine other workers, or trick workplace monitoring tools into making it seem like they’re working harder than they actually are by manipulating the solutions through two-monitor systems, false mouse movements, and other strategies. 

Toxic behavior by manipulators has an extremely negative effect on employee morale and leads to employers and managers rewarding the wrong employees, causing resentment and stress among your workforce. They can change the entire dynamic of your workplace culture, creating a sense of paranoia and suspicion that can be difficult to shake, and which can negatively impact an otherwise healthy culture. This kind of behavior can unfortunately go unreported by hardworking employees, as they might feel that addressing the issues may only serve to worsen the situation - especially if the manipulative coworker in question ranks above them. 

Using metrics and business intelligence to identify workplace manipulators

Office manipulators get away with their toxic behavior partially because of a lack of oversight - if they believe they can continue getting away with taking credit for the work of others or gaming the system, there’s no reason to believe that they’ll ever stop. The only effective way to identify an office manipulator is by using clear metrics to see who is actually working productively, and who might have a little too much time on their hands.

In order to gain access to accurate productivity data, you need a business intelligence solution you can rely on. We recently conducted a survey on the Value of Transparency in the Workplace, which revealed that 90% of employees don’t have a problem with employers having visibility into their typical workday - it allows employees to accurately show employers how productively they’re working. In addition to these findings, 53% of employees reported feeling frustrated that their efforts aren’t being recognized by employers. Not only do business intelligence solutions allow management to identify productive employees, but they can forever solve the issue of recognition by highlighting outstanding performers and identifying at-risk employees.

Business intelligence solutions like Prodoscore offer a legitimate way for employers to identify how productively their employees are working, gathering near real-time information from CRM solutions, business phone systems, office suites like G Suite and Microsoft Office 365, and other tools and boiling it all down to an easy-to-understand Productivity Score™. This score can be used to track employee productivity over time and to compare specific employees to the workforce at large. Productivity scores allow you to identify and address potentially manipulative employees whose performance isn’t measuring up to the credit they’re receiving.

Solving issues with a toxic employee could mean using enhanced coaching to curb the behavior and improve employee productivity. You’ll have to speak privately with your difficult employee(s) to directly address the problem, allowing you to outline exactly what your expectations are and what the consequences will be if they continue to behave in a toxic manner. 

If you’re lucky, the employee may not even be aware that their actions are having negative effects and will be eager to help fix any problems with co-workers. A truly toxic employee may just get angry at management for addressing the problem and try to exact retribution on co-workers who may be involved - retribution which can easily be assessed and cataloged for HR with the right monitoring tools in place. 

Remote Work Roots Out Master Manipulators

It is much easier for a bully to manipulate co-workers in an in-person office setting. While they can still pull some stunts with remote work, such as taking all of the credit for a project or another employee’s idea, it is much harder for them to slack off. Additionally, if you do install a business intelligence tool such as Prodoscore, it is simple for management to see exactly how much work employees are doing and what they are working on. Not having to deal with toxic coworkers is one of the reasons many workers prefer telecommuting. 

For employees who refuse to improve their behavior or who continue to undermine their colleagues, it could even mean suspension or termination - you can’t continue to allow the rest of your workforce to suffer simply because one manipulative employee refuses to change. With business intelligence tools at your disposal, you’ll be able to handle these situations more effectively and make better informed decisions that will benefit your organization as a whole.

To find out more about the surprising takeaways from Prodoscore’s Value of Transparency in the Workplace, be sure to check out Part I and Part II of the survey.

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