Using Reverse Psychology To Your Advantage In Workplaces

Ever tried asking for more workload from your superior?

That is a form of reverse psychology that might work in your favor, if your superior thinks you are very efficient and capable.

I will show you how you can use reverse psychology in workplace to

  1. Create time in workplaces
  2. Obtain help from colleagues
  3. Set the right expectations in your role.

Be sure to read until point 3 because that is probably the most enlightening point I have come to realize and I hope those who are reading this will be enlightened as well.

What Is Reverse Psychology In Workplaces?

Firstly, what is reverse psychology in workplace? Reverse psychology in workplace is a strategy to get yourself more time, help from colleagues and better perceptions from others by doing things in the opposite manner. It is a form of manipulation intended to surprise and take advantage of human logic. 

Basically, many of us tend to do the opposite of whatever we are told to do, and that is why reverse psychology works.

The problem with reverse psychology is its portrayal in a bad light in our modern society.

Jeff Greenberg, a professor of social psychology once said, When one attempts to use reverse psychology on another, they are threatening their perceptions of freedom. Threatening this freedom makes it more appealing to choose to exercise that freedom.’

This is because it can jeopardize the authenticity of relationships between your colleagues or even superiors.

However, what if I told you this menacing trick can become your ally without having to test the integrity of your relationships with others? Would this phenomenon still be considered as pernicious as it is no longer at the expense of manipulating others?

How?

Using the ‘UNO reverse’ card on yourself. Yes, you read that right. From reading through this article, I will extend the typical limitations of reverse psychology on others to yourself instead. 

1. Creating Time In Workplaces

We both know we are not ‘Doctor Strange’, we cannot use the ‘Time Stone’ to create time whenever or wherever we want.

Come to think of it, even ‘Doctor Strange’ could not create time with the ‘Time Stone’.

He could only manipulate it (no pun intended, I promise).

The point is, using reverse psychology is not a secret magic trick to create time, but it can be a useful habit to reduce the amount of wasted time, therefore creating more time for yourself through that series of actions.

How does having the habit of using reverse psychology on yourself diminish time wasted?

4 words: Converting willingness to ability. 

The root cause of people wasting time at work is their lack of willingness.

You could be piled with endless emails or stuck in a never-ending cycle of company projects. Your colleagues come and go to you, seeking help for an assignment that you may not even be responsible for in the first place. Having this much of a mundane cycle really levels up our biggest foe -- procrastination, and once the level of procrastination becomes too strong for us to handle, we can only choose to give up. 

Procrastination is a trap many of us unwaveringly fall into. We spend a lot of time choosing to do all other activities except for the task you know you should be doing. Before you know it, you are left with less than a few hours to complete your task. All those questions about how you got yourself here or how could you have let time slip away from you so easily do not matter anymore, because now, you are running out of time.

Consequences from procrastinating like these are common. In fact, the problem with having a lack of time due to time wastage is not only limited to procrastination. However, as I believe procrastination is one of the biggest, if not biggest, the reason why we constantly feel like we have a lack of time, I would like to explicitly explain how reverse psychology can become a cure to your procrastinating disease.

Kevin Ngo, the owner of MotivationalWellBeing.com, once said, ‘If you don’t take the time on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a lot of time dealing with a life you don’t want.’ How does this quote come into play with reverse psychology? According to research studies, the pain of losing something they own is twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining something. This is known as Loss Aversion

An example of how you might encounter loss aversion at work is opportunities. For instance, your colleague or superior might bring up an opportunity to experience an event and they might say something like this, ‘If you are interested, you can sign up for it.’

As compared to a statement where loss aversion is inserted into the picture,

‘You will be the only person that will not go for this event if you do not sign up for it quickly.’

Notice the difference in urgency and presentation of the statement told to you? This is one clear example of using loss aversion in reverse psychology.

Your colleague and superior has the intention of making you sign up for it despite knowing you might be unwilling to do so because you might feel that it is just a waste of time. Hence, instead of asking you directly to sign up, they manipulate their choice of words, making you feel obliged to join in on the event so that you do not lose out from everyone else. 

Applying this to workplaces, the more you procrastinate, the more opportunities you are going to lose out from.

The amount of time that you could have used to produce more quality work is now wasted because you chose to procrastinate and not do it. If you had been more productive, perhaps your superior could have entrusted you with higher responsibilities or even bigger projects. However, you will never know what you might lose out on if you constantly choose to procrastinate. While everyone moves head-on forward, you will be the only one left behind and that is a consequence you are going to have to deal with because of the choice you made -- to procrastinate.

Procrastination holds back the investment you could be making in yourself. The next time you are in a dilemma, whether you should do everything else except for your work, remember the opportunities and time you could be losing out on. Realize how reducing your time wastage increases your potential in gaining more time for the other things in life.

In the end, we always have a choice when it comes to our own life. However, if you choose to pursue the very best for yourself, then it starts with maturing to stop the things that are less important so that you have more time for the things that can add value to your life. 

2. Obtaining Help From Your Colleagues

It would be wrong for me to bring reverse psychology up and only use it on ourselves without explaining how to use it on others. This could even be the section you are looking forward to the most as you click into the post. But, I have to set some boundaries first. Personally, I believe using reverse psychology, manipulating, others is ethical only when it is the betterment of both parties at the same time. This means that if you use this phenomenon on others just for your own personal gain and at the expense of others, that action itself is considered unethical to me. However, this parameter is simply a personal opinion and everyone can have their own convictions as to what makes reverse psychology ethical. Thus, whilst setting this foundational rule in place, let us get into how you can use reverse psychology to obtain help from your colleagues.

Obviously, the best starting course of action would be to directly ask for help from your colleagues nicely and hope that they would provide you with the help you require. This removes all complications in the first place. However, the world does not always revolve around us. Sometimes, your colleagues could be a little tight on their own deadlines and schedules. At other times, they could be selfish and do not want to go through all the trouble from listening to your problem and finding a suitable solution for you. Humans, including myself, are inherently selfish. (We could go into a whole other debate whether this statement is true or not but that’s for another topic) There isn’t anything wrong with being self-secure because that is simply the way we are as we grow up. You have to understand that most people are not going to be so selfless and be willing to help you with open arms as long as you ask. This is clear when reverse psychology can be utilized to your advantage in your workplace to receive help from your colleagues when in need.

Reverse psychology heavily depends on your method of influence. It requires you to listen and be attentive to what your target is saying before expressing your influence to create a response that is favorable to you at an opportune moment. Though before you begin doing so, you need to recognize your target’s personality first. This is very important because you need to understand how reverse psychology does not work on any type of personality.  

The 10-minute leader speaks on the idea of people being categorized into matches and mismatchers. Matchers are the people that you do not need to use reverse psychology. This is because they are the ones who strive for cohesive teamwork and strictly stick to the rules. On the other hand, mismatchers like debating the details, pointing out the simple differences. To put it simply, the ones who will challenge you even in the simplest of things. It is crucial to know if your colleague is a matcher or a mismatcher as using reverse psychology on a matcher can backfire on you by doing the exact thing you ask them to do even though you were trying to use reverse psychology on them to do the other.

Thus, the very first thing to do before you use reverse psychology is knowing your colleague: Is he/she a matcher or a mismatcher?

The second step in using reverse psychology is intention. What do you hope to achieve from using reverse psychology on your colleague? To gain insight? Asking for a favor? Whatever the intent is, need to know what it is so that you can start phrasing and preparing questions in your head with a twist. For example, if you want your colleague to tell you something only they would know, instead of asking, ‘What is it that you know?’ You can add on to the question with, ‘It’s okay if you don’t know what it is.’

Lastly, the key to using reverse psychology is your influence in questions asked towards them. It is not going to be something you can understand how to use effective immediately because it takes time to cultivate the ability to use reverse psychology with experience and understanding your colleague’s personality. In due time, reverse psychology will be at the tip of your fingertips and you will be able to have control over the conversation.

Do watch your tone when utilizing reverse psychology. It’s optimum to challenge with an even tone, expressing the opposite of your intent. If possible, you should not use it often lest the other party catches up to your tricks. Most importantly, you must be careful with who you use reverse psychology on. If your colleague knows how to exploit using reverse psychology as well, it can be counterproductive towards you. 

In the end, no matter how controversial using reverse psychology will always be its pros and cons. Using psychological manipulation may be beneficial in the sense it gets others to behave the way you want them to. However, when mishandled, mistrust is exposed and it can be damaging to your relationship with your colleagues.

3. Creating A Purpose and Setting The Right Expectations In Your Role

The Office Jester: ‘Reverse Psychology At Work’ -- “There’s a serious discrepancy on how employees view themselves and how bosses view their employees. The intensity of this discrepancy is almost surprising. Bosses always seem to think that their employees should give more while employees always think that they’re just doing justice to their work.”

It is never an uncanny sight for our superiors to demand more from us, telling us off that we did not produce good quality work. What’s even more frustrating is when you spend hours and effort into it, only for your dedication and hard work to not be recognized by them. It wouldn’t take long before you start having the feeling of giving up but you know you cannot do so because it is a job you need to retain. This mundane cycle continues, with a consolation prize of a little praise or smile from your superior for a task you complete now and then.

The key that I hope you realize is that you cannot please everybody you meet, different people have different expectations. Do not be a people pleaser! (Refer to the image below to tell if you are a people pleaser) Sometimes people’s expectations of you may even be insurmountable and it is important to not let it conquer you. Unable to meet someone’s expectations of you even though you have done your best does not mean that you have failed at what you did. It’s about the process, not the outcome. Even if you have made a mistake, learn, and build on it, remind yourself that failure is your raw material to success.

The reason that I bring this up is that I want you to have self-awareness. Having self-awareness is the first factor you require before you can begin embarking on your journey to creating a purpose in your role at work. This entails having to know what your tasks are at hand, your strengths and weaknesses, and your goals

These 3 aspects need to hand-hold each other tightly as building on them empower you to be better at your role. For instance, you can use your strengths wisely in the tasks that you have so that you can reach your goal effectively. Understanding your weakness infers that there is an aspect you are still unfamiliar with and that you can improve on it through tasks or your colleagues. Setting a goal is important because it gives you purpose. This lays the foundation for your drive and motivation to push you every single day to improve yourself in your role. So before we move forward, what are the assignments you have? What are your strengths and weaknesses? And, what is it you hope to achieve through your role in work?

How does reverse psychology come into play? An article from Research Digest: ‘Reverse Psychology: How bad managers inspire team camaraderie’, touched on organizations should not assume that a cohesive team is a credit to their leader as sometimes the opposite is the case. What can we learn from this?

You do not need to hold a position to have the power to make a change in your role at work; You are not limited to what you are asked to do.

Reverse psychology can be used here to change your perception of how you view your work. If you continue to see work as a necessity or is simply the part and parcel of life, you are never going to feel fulfilled at work. This is how changing your perception at work changes your productivity in your role. When you stop seeing work as a hindrance but a purpose-filled chapter in your life to impart your strengths and knowledge for the betterment of the company you work at, you will soon start to ignite a passion for work within your heart. When you stop looking forward to the weekends so that you can get out of the office but start searching for ways to correct your mistakes and minimize your procrastination, you will find yourself having a much faster career progression than you never thought you would achieve.

As Mark Manson said, ‘depth is where the gold is buried. When you stay committed and dig deep into something you love to do, relationships, career and everything else will be added unto you in due time. You want to be successful and happy? Create a purpose and set the right expectations in your role and work first.

Conclusion

A lot of times we find ourselves struggling in the simplest of everyday things and this includes work, which is a large part of our lives. According to Gettysburg College, an average person spends about 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. That amounts to one-third of a person’s life. 

Reverse psychology can be an extremely useful tool if you use it ethically to help yourself create time, obtain help from your colleagues, and set a purpose and expectations in your workplace. In conclusion, when it comes to working, you can either choose to drag and suffer your way through it or learn to embrace it and elevate yourself.

References:

  1. TheMindFool -- ‘Reverse Psychology -- Changing Minds, Converting Attitudes’ https://themindfool.com/reverse-psychology/
  2. The Office Jester -- ‘Reverse Psychology at Work’ https://blog.inkjetwholesale.com.au/office-jester/office-jester-reverse-psychology-work/
  3. Forbes -- ‘Want to Find Your Purpose At Work? Change Your Perceptions’ https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2019/08/12/want-to-find-your-purpose-at-work-change-your-perceptions/?sh=628025841f48
  4. Gettysburg College -- ‘One-third of your life is spent at work’ https://www.gettysburg.edu/news/stories?id=79db7b34-630c-4f49-ad32-4ab9ea48e72b&pageTitle=1%2F3+of+your+life+is+spent+at+work#:~:text=The%20average%20person%20will%20spend%2090%2C000%20hours%20at%20work%20over%20a%20lifetime.
  5. The10minuteleader -- ‘Reverse psychology, how to influence mismatchers and get things done.’ https://www.the10minuteleader.com/reverse-psychology/
  6. Dan Lok -- ‘The best ways to use reverse psychology in everyday life’ https://danlok.com/best-ways-to-use-reverse-psychology-in-everyday-life/
  7. separated dads -- ‘Using reverse psychology effectively’ http://www.separateddads.co.uk/using-reverse-psychology-effectively.html
  8. BetterHelp -- ‘Reverse Psychology: What is it, and does it work?’ https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/reverse-psychology-what-is-it-and-does-it-work/
  9. done&tested -- ‘People are more afraid of losing than winning’ https://doneandtested.com/psychology/people-are-more-afraid-of-losing-than-winning-loss-aversion/

Efforts have been made to get the information as accurate and updated as possible. If you found any incorrect information with credible source, please send it via the contact us form

Travis Thong
Freelance Content Writer. Future Psychological Science Undergraduate at the University Of Queensland for his Honours degree programme. Loves challenging self to improve his hard skills while expanding his knowledge on global and societal affairs


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