Working on teams can be frustrating. There may be times when you feel that things should be done in a certain way, but you can’t get a coworker to go along with your plan.

When this happens, you might be tempted to try to manipulate your coworker into doing what you want. Of course, this is never the right course of action. If you try to control your coworker, you run the risk of creating conflict and engendering ill will.

But according to author Monica Torres, it’s not unusual for people to say manipulative things to their coworkers in order to get their way. Often these phrases sound friendly and polite, but they’re actually designed to push people into taking a certain course of action. Some of these phrases are so subtle, the people saying them may not even realize that they’re trying to manipulate others.

So what types of manipulative things should you avoid saying? Torres provides the following list:

  • “Do you have a minute?” — It’s kind of impossible for someone to say “no” to this question, regardless of how busy they might be. So if you say it, you’re kind of forcing the other person to help you with your problem right away, even though it might not be the best time. Instead of asking if they have a minute, just tell your coworker that you have an issue that you need to talk about, and ask them when would be a good time to discuss it.
  • “Everyone agrees that…” — It’s very possible that you might be overestimating how much everyone agrees with you. In addition, it kind of sounds like you (and your other colleagues) are ganging up on your coworker. Instead of saying this phrase, you should just voice your own opinion. Let your colleagues speak for themselves, if they want to.
  • “I’m not saying that you should do it, but…” — Don’t kid yourself. If you use this phrase, you’re definitely telling your coworker that you think they should take a certain course of action. Just be honest and upfront about it.
  • “Don’t spend all night on this, but…” — You’re not being kind when you say this. You’re not telling the other person that they can take it easy. You’re telling them that you want them to put a lot of time and effort into the task – and if they have to stay up late to get it done, then they should (just so long as they don’t stay up ALL night). Instead of using this phrase, you should tell your coworker about the deadline, and talk to them about how long the task might take. Offer to extend the deadline, if possible.
  • “Don’t you agree?” — A lot of people might answer “yes” to this question, not because they actually agree with what was said, but because they’re afraid of coming across as difficult or argumentative. Instead of saying this phrase, just go with “what do you think?” This type of question will allow your coworker to give you an honest answer.

Torres, M. (2021, November 4).  5 accidentally manipulative things you say at work. HuffPost. Retrieved from: