The Bottom Line Series

Persuasion vs Manipulation in the Workplace

Lonnie Tkach headshot

Lonnie Tkach, Owner, Anytime Fitness Campbell River

As leaders it is our responsibility to influence people everyday. When working with staff we strive to inspire and motivate them in their job performance. We influence them to work at the best of their abilities, to live the culture of our company, and we facilitate the growth of their knowledge and skills.

When interacting with our customers and prospective customers, we are trying to influence them towards the benefits of our products or services.

So where is the line between ethical and unethical influence? Today, I will break it down with two words — persuasion versus manipulation.

Let’s look at these two words:

  1. Persuasion is the presentation of a clear and convincing set of reasons backed by facts which compel.
  2. Manipulation is the presentation of information designed to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive or abusive tactics.

Persuasion is a transparent process of influencing another person or group of people. The intent is upfront; there is nothing underhanded or contriving about it.

For example, if someone walks into our gym, interested in finding out about a membership, it is obvious that I want to do my best to help them and persuade them that we can do a great job of supporting them towards their health and fitness goals.

They would likely be disappointed if I had a “care-less” response to their inquiries. It is my responsibility to provide them with clear information, and not conceal any details that are relevant to their needs or financial commitments.

I consider it my job to engage with them, learn about their situation, their interests, their goals. I also want to help them problem solve any obstacles that might get in the way of them following through with their health and fitness goals. When done with this ethical commitment, it is exciting to earn and win the business of a new customer, especially since we are confident we can deliver on providing a great experience in a beautiful facility.

Persuasion is building authentic relationships and working towards outcomes that are in the best interests of all parties.

Manipulation is a different story. It could involve an ulterior motive for the attempt at persuasion, often driven by a one-sided benefit.

Here is workplace related example: A boss describes a project he wants staff to do that is above and beyond their regular work commitments, and one of the staff approaches him later and asks, “What’s the benefit to me in doing this extra work?” The boss replies, “You get to keep your job.”

We all know that the boss stands to benefit if the project goes well, but his abusive response to the employee’s question showed a one-sided view of the situation.

Unfortunately, his manipulative tactics will force the employee to perform the tasks, but what will their level of interest and passion will be in getting the job done?

It takes additional effort and patience to develop healthy persuasion habits as opposed to resorting to manipulative tactics. The benefits to your business success and reputation will be priceless.

The bottom line… Create a healthy and authentic communication culture in your workplace.



Lonnie Tkach is the owner of Anytime Fitness Campbell River.


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