There is no question that the person who has the information about where a team is headed and how they plan to get there is a powerful person. But what happens when that person isn’t a benevolent ruler and uses that power for their own gain to the detriment of others?
Some examples might be:
- Ostracizing team members by not inviting them to key meetings
- Assigning deliverables but withholding information critical to their successful delivery
- Skipping one or more links in the chain of command to make themselves look good
- Providing misinformation
- “Forgetting” to copy team members on pertinent emails
Addressing the passive/aggressive behavior of information manipulation is not easy. When you realize it is happening to you, the first response is often to be angry. “How dare she have a meeting about my project and not invite me!” When you confront the person you are likely to get an excuse. “Oh, we were just tying up some details. You didn’t miss anything.” Or “I’m sorry, I just forgot.” If it doesn’t happen again it could really be nothing. If it continues to happen, even after you have voiced your concern, something more sinister may be afoot.
Here are a few options:
- Engage in a conversation about roles and responsibilities. Put down on paper what your roles are, the information you need to be successful and the meetings in which you expect to be included.
- Verify with your boss and the boss of the person withholding information that their understanding of your roles agrees with yours.
- Get a commitment, via email or in another written form, that you will be kept in the loop about anything pertaining to your agreed upon responsibilities.
- Monitor the situation carefully.
- Consider if your best option might be to leave the team
No matter how hard you try, sometimes you simply can not succeed when someone is purposefully trying to undermine you. I had an experience in my corporate life when my boss regularly started “forgetting” to invite me to meetings, tell me about important conference calls and copy me on team emails. She then used my slipping productivity as “proof” that I was incompetent and tried to have me fired. Fortunately for me I was able to provide enough evidence to make the HR person understand that I was not being given the information I needed to be successful. I wasn’t fired. But I did start looking for, and ultimately took, a different job. I knew for me the best option was to not stay where I wasn’t wanted.
Have you experienced a situation where the power of information has been used in negative way? We would love to hear about it.
Come back next week when we discuss how teams create norms that become so embedded they don’t change even when the team members do.
If you missed last week’s conversation on how to deal with human distractions you can read it here.