4 Dos and Don’ts of Using Psychology to Your Advantage in the Workplace

4 Dos and Don’ts of Using Psychology to Your Advantage in the Workplace

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“I don’t want to play ” This is a common phrase used by hopeful people all over the world, who are trying to win their love. Many people don’t like the word “manipulation” because they believe that one who does this can only have bad intentions.

In the workplace, being a “kiss-up” is frowned upon as fake. I’ve had bosses tell my stories of brown-nosers, and they love them. Needless to state, the comment was not very flattering.

At work, it seems that it is easy: Do your job well and be a good manager, and you will do fine. Respect your boss, colleagues, and clients and you’ll be all set. What if you want more? That is where a basic understanding of peer psychology comes in very handy.

As the brand strategist for a boutique company, I have both client-facing and managerial responsibilities. I am often in contact with the CEO of the company, and I know that I represent her at all time. Knowing how she, our clients and my colleagues think — in general terms — is crucial to my professional well-being.

Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to help you use your workplace culture and a little human Psychology to your advantage.

Related: How Business Fits Into the Puzzle of Human Psychology

Don’t: Be someone you’re not

I got called a kiss-up because I love working hard, am nice to everyone until they give me a good reason not to be and I’m praise-motivated. I hate the term and all the colorful associations with it. It makes people who love their jobs look bad.

Being too cool for school is not cool anymore. We are adults. If you are like me, don’t be afraid to express it. Paradoxically, if you think that “acting” excited is unnecessary to get the job done, don’t be ingenuine — and strongly consider my next point if you find yourself surrounded by happy-go-lucky coworkers who make your hairs stand up.

Do: Choose a workplace culture that matches you

Work somewhere you fit in. If your workplace culture considers “bubbliness important”, there’s nothing wrong in being serious. You might be in the wrong place.

Pay attention to culture during interviews. In 2022, you’re interviewing the company just as much as they’re interviewing you. Ask the company what they expect of you in terms of attitude, dress, and demeanor. In traditional jobs with 40-hour weeks, we spend massive chunks of our lives at work. Being who you are will increase your happiness and allow you to grow your career.

Don’t: Use negative manipulation to get ahead

Putting someone else down is the worst way to “get ahead.” Either the truth will come out, making you look terrible, you will feel downright terrible or you will get your just deserts in kind.

Related: How to Tell If Someone Is Manipulating You Based on Their Body Language

Do: Notice who is who

The quiet hard worker, the money-motivated one, the praise addict, the one who bluntly cuts to the chase — everyone is different. One colleague might enjoy being teased for giving criticisms, while another might need an “ego sandwich” (complimentation, criticism, compliment).

Understanding who is on your team is essential. It doesn’t matter if they are your superiors, equals, or managers, understanding who they are is essential and how you can use that to your advantage is key.

Don’t: Speak your mind to the wrong people

There will always be something you wish was different at work. Perhaps you can see the potential for improvement in a department or how it might be difficult to work with a certain person. While talking about it on the sidelines to a coworker you think you can trust (you can’t) might seem easier, speaking to that department head or difficult coworker directly is always the better solution.

If you have a great idea share it with someone who can either approve it or help you to see it through. Don’t get too attached to who gets the credit. Making your boss look good to you will make them look good. It’s simple math: a happy manager is a happy employee.

If your coworker is becoming more irritating, be the larger person (note: this advice does not include abuse of any sort). You will eventually see what they are doing and be proud that you didn’t fall for their traps. Patience, especially in the workplace, wins.

Related: Why You Should Care About Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Do: Give compliments

Give compliments to yourself and others. I keep every compliment I get on a private Slack channel for when I need a boost. If you work in an environment that allows for in-person communication, make sure to write down any nice comments your boss made about your project. This positive feedback loop is a gift that keeps on giving. Don’t forget about other people’s compliment loops.

Don’t: Be afraid to use patterns in your favor

Think like Ted Lasso: If your boss likes the homemade biscuits you bring every day, keep ’em comin’.

Is your boss allergic to red? Red is not a good color. Do you think someone you manage will work harder if they are given a lot of work at once, instead of drip-assigning throughout a week? It’s work dump it!

A client will be more impressed by the same quality work if presented to them on a Zoom call. Set up a Zoom meeting. If you compliment a colleague publicly at team meetings, it will make you a great boss. It’s time to find something to compliment authentically more often.

If you have good intentions, it is not possible to fake or manipulate things that work well for people. You should not hesitate to question a decision in a moral way. If you are unsure about wearing red because you think it looks better in red, this is not a moral concern.

Related: What 5 Classic Psychological Experiments Can Teach Workplace Leaders

Do: Practice

This advice is surface-level for a reason: Every workplace and every person is different. It takes practice and it is different for each person you meet. There will be mistakes and trials along the way, just like a healthy marriage.

Even if you make a mistake, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. We are still human, even though we try to influence situations in our favor.

Others may have as much influence as us; it’s impossible for us to predict every outcome. This article might also be of interest to your colleagues.

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