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Hey. PJ the office cat here. You know how you train people? Easy: You manipulate them.


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Herding People: Initial Considerations

PJ the Office Cat's picture
Submitted by: PJ the Office Cat

Hey. PJ the office cat here. You know how you train people? Easy: You manipulate them.

For example, I couldn’t help overhearing the office humans talking about the posts on this blog. Kind of irritating, frankly, since I was trying to sleep. But rather than making the rounds, desk by desk, and telling them to pipe down, I thought I’d post this and save myself the effort. They usually go quiet when they have to read something. See? That’s manipulation, although a pretty subtle example.

You’re probably thinking this skill comes naturally to me because I’m a cat. Well, yeah. But there’s skill, strategy, and finesse involved, too. The example above may be advanced, but it’s not just due to my natural ability. I've put in my time at the gemba and spent hours observing how these squirrels work. You could say I’ve earned my Black Belt in manipulation. Here are some tips I’ve found useful.

Before you make any specific move, choose your overall goal. What do you want them to accomplish?
• New skills? Like, wash my sleeping pad once in a while.
New techniques for old skills? How about buying different flavors of cat food, geniuses?
• A fair and equal workplace free of harassment? Don’t get me started on this.
• Better workplace behavior? Bingo. Respect your napping colleagues, please:

Next, consider who’s being manipulated:
• New employees? Forget about getting them to do anything fancy until they understand the basics like feeding times, door management, and petting.
• Seasoned employees? If you’ve been using the proper manipulation techniques on these guys already, they are the ones who will get your message the quickest and do what you want. So if it’s something you really need, start with them. Sometimes they will even train the new employees and save you the trouble.
• Upper management? Not recommended, but good luck.

When you’ve chosen your target, you’ll want to think about how much time you have for manipulating. You must factor in things like their attention spans and lunch breaks. This place is very deadline-driven, which can be a nuisance. If that’s also the case at your office, plan on sleeping through the worst of their screen-staring time, since they will be less likely to pay attention to you then. But keep an eye on their movements, which can signal a break in the hypnosis.

Do you need any props or tools? For example, I sometimes use my toys, which I manipulated them to provide, to get their attention. If you don’t have any toys (you really should work on that), don’t forget you have a built-in accessory already going for you: Even the really self-absorbed ones will notice if you chase your tail. True, it’s a little undignified, so make sure the end justifies the means. Knocking stuff off their desks works, too, but can sometimes backfire. Avoid knocking over their coffee.

Once you’ve figured all that out, you must then face and accept the unpleasant truth that people will need to be drilled and drilled and drilled on the behavior or skill you want from them. This can be tedious, but don’t give up. Some do’s and don’ts for this phase:

Do be consistent with the message. Think of it as a sort of ballet: Jump on desk and meow. No response? Bump against shoulder. Tap with paw. If there’s still no response, tap with paw and claw, but be prepared to leap off at that point and hustle to the food bowl (or whatever the focus of the manipulation). It’s unlikely they’ll get this the first time. That’s OK. Let the drill sink in and try again later. It depends on what you’re after, but half-hour repetitions are the accepted average.

Do keep it simple. Most of them aren’t rocket scientists, and the ones who are will be treated in a separate post.

Don’t escalate. Set the manipulation aside if you’ve made no headway after, say, three months, and move on to a different one. Don’t get angry; that’s counterproductive in the extreme. You don’t want to start a war. You must rise above their failures.

Don’t reward for the wrong reasons. For instance, you must not allow them to pet you when you’re drilling them. That’s just a distraction for them, even if it feels good to you.

Have you successfully manipulated someone? I’d like to hear about it at