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On-the-Job Mind Control Techniques


Want to become paranoid? Read this article. Never again will you assume that somebody said “thank you” because they’re nice or have good manners. From now on, you’ll have to wonder if they’re trying to control your behavior with positive reinforcement.

mind control 

(Photo Credit: Aurimas Adomavicius/Flickr)

On-the-job mind control techniques are a long way from asking someone to stare at a pocket watch swinging back and forth until they are in your power. Rather, they’re the manipulation techniques that people use every day at work. Whether you choose to simply be aware of them in order to avoid being unduly influenced by others, or whether you choose to use these techniques for your own gain, is up to you.

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Controlled Approval

If you’ve ever had a boss that was inconsistent in his or her responses to employee actions, you may understand controlled approval. By alternating praise and disapproval of the same actions, managers create a sense of vulnerability and confusion. Often, the confused respond by trying harder to please the one in charge.

Planting Ideas in Other People’s Heads

We think of good bosses and co-workers as people who communicate directly what they want you to do. And they are a breath of fresh air!

A more manipulative way of influencing somebody’s behavior or thoughts is to talk around an issue. Lifehacker has an amusing set of suggestions for getting your friend to stop eating fast-food fried chicken. The key to putting ideas is someone else’s head is to make them think they came up with the idea on their own.

A little suggestion may go a long way. For example: “My, oh my, this printer sure runs out of ink fast.” And the next day, “Wow, these printer cartridges are expensive, compared to (insert name of printer you want here).” And the next day, a printer catalog appears in the break room. You get the idea.


Thanking people for doing what you want them to do is more than just good manners: It is positive reinforcement. It has a less sinister feel to it than giving inconsistent praise. When you give inconsistent reinforcement, you keep people on their toes, trying to get a “good job” or a “thank you.” When you consistently thank others for doing a good job, you encourage them to genuinely want to please you.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you wary of psychological techniques, or will you start to use them? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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