A directed writing assignment in Business Adminstration 352, Organizational Behavior. 

Manipulating People -- Where to Draw the Line

Scott Langley, BA 352

Prof. Montgomery, 7/30/92

Business managers, as do other people, manipulate their employees by exploiting their psychological needs. There are benefits to this such as increased performance. There are also potential hazards where people can be manipulated to do wrong things. I will develop here reasoning on what the limits on manipulation should be.

Everyone can benefit if people are manipulated to perform at their maximum level. The company enjoys increased productivity and higher profits. The manager has better results to report and hopefully a more harmonious work group. For the employees, they have their manipulated needs met and the company can afford to pay them better. Also, they may develop personally as personality and psychological barriers are overcome. Society as a whole benefits as well with increased wealth and more stable societal structures.

The danger with manipulation is that people can be lead to do immoral acts. History has many examples where people were manipulated toward wrong ends. The greatest example in modern memory must be Hitler's manipulation of the German people. People were coerced into lying, killing, stealing, and other recognized wrongs. Later, many people regretted doing this. Psychological manipulation can be a very powerful tool.

So where does one draw the line. Even the thought of manipulating people can be repugnant to some. Others see the ends justifying the means. Different people have different moral values on what is right and wrong. So the place to draw the line would seem to differ from person to person. A person will face punishment for their manipulation if some persons involved discover a wrong that it has caused.

The first guide in my mind of where to draw the line is where you cross the values of society as a whole. Now society is not uniform, but a person is generally aware of what is viewed as wrong by at least a significant portion of society. When a significant portion of society is offended, the issue makes the news, invites investigation, and for a business, results in a significant loss of employees or customers. This must be avoided.

The values that a manager personally holds may be more or less strict than society's, depending on the issue. One should not have to offend one's personal beliefs as well. The best advice, then, is for the manager to draw the line on an issue of right and wrong at his/her personal values or society's values, whichever is more strict. At the same time, it is unreasonable to expect everyone else to draw the line at your personal values of right and wrong. If you're easily offended, you have best let everyone know ahead of time and try as well to see things from the majority's point of view.


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