Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

How To Deal With a Manipulator At Work

Chapter 4: Who To Trust At Work Part 12

In the last post, I shared stories of people who had negative experiences dealing with a Fox.  While a Fox can talk you into anything, the great weakness of the Fox is execution.  If you don’t do the job for him, he can’t get it done by herself.   I asked Liz how she dealt with Susie, who was taking credit for her work.

“When someone gets a promotion before me, I don’t mind, no sour grapes.  But when they lied and cheated and misrepresented themselves, I have more of an issue.  You get to a point where it’s not benefiting me to get all riled up about it.  At a certain level you will be found out.  [If you choose to live that way], you will be the one looking over your shoulder waiting to see who would stab you.”

For the record, Susie was eventually demoted and later let go.   Liz was promoted several times, and went on to run a group of more than fifty people.

Another Senior Marketing Manager shared the following with me, which led me to a strategy for dealing with a Fox. Sometimes “the guy who takes the hit is the guy trying to execute on unrealistic, jackass plans.  Two to three rounds [of layoffs] later, it eventually it gets figured out and cleaned up. In the meantime there is a wake.”

So my takeaways from both stories:

1. It can be more stressful to be the fox than to deal with a fox, because a fox is always worried about being exposed or disempowered.  So don’t worry too much about them “getting away with it.”  You wouldn’t want to live that life.

2. A fox survives by manipulating others.  Once you understand a fox, they lose their power over you, and you have a decent chance of outlasting them.

Often the person being manipulated  by a Fox is a Wolf, which I will begin to illustrate in the next post with the parable of The Fox and The Wolf.

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Have You Ever Felt Like a Crow To Someone Else’s Fox?

Chapter 4: Who To Trust At Work?  Part 10

The last few posts have described the Scorpion, the first of three personality types that can help you evaluate a coworkers priorities and values.  I define a Fox as someone who is motivated primarily by self-advancement, and who particular gift of convincing people to act in a certain way.  Or to put it less kindly, a Fox is a manipulator.  I picked the name based on the fox in Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Crow.”[i]

A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree. “Good-day, Mistress Crow,” he cried. “How well you are looking to-day: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds.” The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox. “That will do,” said he. “That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese I will give you a piece of advice for the future: Do not trust flatterers.”

A Fox is the type of person who can convince you that “black is white.”  The Fox in the office can be charming or critical, but is always a master of “upward management.”  Often, a Fox on the rise has a protector in a more senior role in the company.  In the next post, we’ll look at a few true stories of the Fox in action.

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[i] http://www.aesops-fables.org.uk/aesop-fable-the-fox-and-the-crow.htm

What Is The Lesson About Work From the Fable of the Scorpion and the Frog?

Chapter 4: How To Trust At Work – The Scorpion, the Fox, or the Wolf  Part 7

I classify Vijay’s nemesis, the scientist, as a Scorpion.  (See the table at the end of the last post for more). “Scorpion” is taken from the following fable of the Scorpion and the Frog.

The scorpion asks the frog to bear him across the river on his back.  “You must think me a fool,” cries the frog.  “You’ll sting me and I’ll die.” “Never fear,” replies the scorpion.  “If I sting you, we both will drown.”  The frog relents, and takes the scorpion on his back.  Halfway across the river, he feels a burning pain and the onset of paralysis.  “Why?” he croaks just before going under. “I couldn’t help it,” replies the scorpion.  “It’s my nature.[i]” 

The Scorpion at work has a single-minded vision of the world.  Just as the scorpion in the story can’t help itself when it stings the frog, the Scorpion at work can’t do anything other than act according to their vision, even when it is potentially self-defeating.  When you work with a Scorpion, your happiness or needs are not on his or her radar.  Chances are, sooner or later you will be stung.

Vijay’s Dr. Scorpion believed that her collaboration with the academic was the key to success for the product.  Without regard for budget, regulations, or protocol, she made it happen.  When things started to go awry, Dr. Scorpion took a significant risk, a bluff that seemed to disregard potential consequences for herself or Vijay.  She could have taken a conciliatory tack, blaming the inventory issue on a misunderstanding or honest mistake. Of course this would have required that she admit that she made a mistake, something Scorpions are loth to do in part because they rarely, if ever, think they have made a mistake.  Instead, she gave dishonest answers and let Vijay take the consequences.

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[i] John Malkovich refers to the fable at the end of the movie Dangerous Liaisons as he betrays the love of his life.  For more, see what Wikipedia has to say.

Is She A Scorpion, a Fox, or a Wolf? A New Paradigm For Who To Trust At Work

Busting Your Corporate Idol Chapter 4 Part 6

In last week’s posts, we met Vijay, the Indian mench who complied with an innocent-sounding request and lost his job as a result. From the perspective of many years later, Vijay told me if he had it to do over again, he would have been able to avoid the situation completely. Vijay learned by experience, and now has a story in his head that helps him make better decisions about who to trust.

I heard many similar stories doing interviews for the book. I started seeing patterns; certain types of people kept coming up. I soon found myself characterizing them according to animals from fables and parables.

Fables and parables have survived thousands of years because they communicate true insights about people, morality, and values. I call the people in the workplace who have a disproportionate impact on trust decisions the Scorpion, the Fox, and the Wolf.  The three categories are drawn from the parable of the Fox and the Wolf, and the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog, both of which are easy-to-remember stories that teach important lessons about misplaced trust.  If you can understand where someone fits in the “SFW” framework, you will have an insight into their priorities and perhaps their underlying values.

The Fox, Scorpion and Wolf behave in a predictable way that reflects their underlying priorities, and by proxy their value system.  Do they put people first?  Do they put the company first?  Do they put themselves first?  If you know someone’s priorities, it becomes much easier predict what they will do, and give you a leg up as you decide whether to trust them or not.  Next post we’ll take a fresh look at Vijay’s nemesis the scientist.  Based on the table below, which animal is she?

Motivated by Strength Weakness Suggested Approach
Scorpion Strict set of ideas Execution & vision Inflexible, polarizing Avoid or exit situation
Fox Self advancement Talking, motivating Poor execution Force them to do more, talk less
Wolf Getting it done for self, company, ideas Execution, relationships Too trusting Cooperate, partner

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