Monday, July 17, 2006

Using the Friends and Allies of Your Enemy to Your Advantage - Part 3!

In the two previous posts on this topic, I provided you with the rationale behind attempting to network with the friends and allies of your enemy, as well as provided you with some sample questions for how to mine for information that can help your case/position/grievance against your enemy. This final post contains some tips on having and documenting these conversations.

Tip #1: When having these conversations, you should listen out for contradictions. You need to find out what is really being said and done behind your back to justify any actions being taken against you by your enemy. When you speak to the friends and allies of your enemy, listen out for contradictions that may illustrate your enemy’s lies. The contradictions may be subtle, but they may still be important when taken in the larger context of what’s going on at your workplace. Don’t discount anything shared with you by a friend or ally that goes against the words and actions of your enemy. Contradictions may provide the real reason why you are under attack by your enemy (race, gender, etc.), may indicate that your enemy is aware that what they are doing to you is wrong (if they’ve lied to their friends and allies about what they’ve done), and may help show that the reasons your enemy is giving to justify actions taken against you are nothing more than a pretext to hide their true motivation--racism.

For instance, your immediate supervisor may have said that the senior manager of your department made numerous complaints about your work and used specific comments to justify not promoting you. So, what you can do is go directly to the senior manager to get their face-to-face input on your job performance. In personally speaking to the senior manager, you may find that they are very complimentary of your work and didn’t offer any serious critique that would have prevented you from advancing. More importantly, you may notice that they didn’t offer any of the specific negative comments attributed to them by your supervisor.

Therefore, the senior manager’s statements would seem to contradict the words of your supervisor—your enemy—who it seems may have fabricated nonexistent statements from the senior manager in order to execute a tangible employment action, denying you a promotion. Perhaps your supervisor was comfortable attributing the statement to the senior manager because the supervisor didn’t believe you’d actually go check behind him/her or because your supervisor perceived the senior manager to be his/her ally in managing your department.

In either case, had you not asked a question, despite a potential alliance against you, you may not have begun to unravel what looks like an active effort by your supervisor, and not the head of your department, to deny you the opportunity to advance. And, if you keep digging, you may find a larger conspiracy. For instance, maybe the higher-ups at your company instructed your supervisor to fabricate allegations against you because the company did not want you, an African American, to advance. So, it was not a persoanl vendetta by your supervisor, but a company mandate.

You should create a log of the contradictions. This log can be used as evidence of an intentional campaign against you, can be used to trip people up who are trying to protect each other, and can help turn friends and allies against each other. Think about it. If what is happening to you is a violation of Federal law, there is motivation for a friend or ally, who has become entwined in your case, to try to extricate themselves by selling out the person instigating the attacks against you. As you prepare your case, keep thinking about contradictions when you are attempting to highlight the questionable, unethical, or non procedure-based actions taken by your supervisor or company.

Tip #2: You can use these conversations to slip information to the friends and allies as a way to spread your own propaganda. For instance, you may be able to buy yourself a reprieve from workplace attacks by “suggesting” to a friend or ally of your enemy that someone is about to be reprimanded for what has been happening to you. You should say this to a friend or ally that will definitely go back and tell your enemy what you said. Your enemy may take the bait and lay off your case for a while.

You can also spread propaganda to cause your enemy to be somewhat isolated from certain friends and allies. For instance, you may tell an enemy’s ally that you heard from a “source that’s pretty high up” that “management is really upset about this incident” and “they take it very seriously.” You can then add that you hope they (the person you are talking to and a friend or ally of your enemy), “aren’t involved in any way” because there definitely will be substantial repercussions. This is a good technique for throwing a monkey wrench in alliances at work, even if it’s only temporary. This works really well when you know your enemy’s friend or ally is absolutely spineless and can’t stand the thought of any attention from Human Resources or management.

Tip #3: Document everything! As soon as you have a conversation with a friend or ally, write down everything they told you—starting with the important items that can help your case. The statements can become part of your chain of evidence. Also, having a written record of face-to-face conversations can force people to turn on each other at a later time, no matter how unwilling they are to do so.

Tip #4: Don’t ever talk to more than one friend or ally at the same time! People are usually more truthful when you have them in a one-on-one situation. Even if you are, for instance, at a group lunch with several of your enemy’s friends and allies, you shouldn’t bring up your work situation or probe for any inside information. By talking to people in a group setting, you run the risk of having the person with the most dominant personality dictating what is said and done during and after the conversation. If you meet with people as a group, one person will take the lead on certain issues and everyone will nod their heads—knowing the person is lying. Another pitfall of speaking to people in groups is that it allows them to coordinate their lies in one sitting.

Tip #5: Decide if you’ve gathered enough information, over time, to report something significant about your enemy—as it relates to your case. For instance, you may have established that this person has been engaging in this pattern of negative and illegal behavior for years. Now, you may have witness corroboration to prove your position regarding your situation with the individual (e.g., they discriminate, make a racially-hostile environment, etc.) If you do not feel you have enough information to strike, just wait, and keep digging for the truth. As they said on the X-Files…The Truth is Out There! Don’t forget, this is just one strategy for dealing with racially-based problems at work. You also want to document examples of negative communication from your enemy, such as offensive email or voice mail, etc.


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