Please or Register to create posts and topics.

What makes a power move, a power move?

If someone interprets your "power move" as a submissive move, is it still a power move?

Since I've been going through the course, I noticed that saying sorry can be a power move given the right context.

For example, when I'm at work and my boss bitches me out over something minor, I'll say, "Sorry about that, I didn't mean to make you re-do all that work" as one instance. But I'm starting to find that it is probably enabling him to become more aggressive about my mistakes and now he's adding condescending messages when I get emails or messages from him.

Before, he would say "hey JP, how are you doing your data tables?" if I made a mistake on my tables. Now, he's saying "Hey JP, you put X down in the report and you know that's impossible right? You should know better". Bear in mind, compared to the previous people in this position, I'm making the least amount of mistakes.

Another example is eye-contact. I was out with a group and there was a guy that kept looking away while he was talking to me, he did the same to one of my friends. We both chatted about this guy and I thought he was snubbing us as a power move, but my friend thought he was just shy (submissive move).

I understand that what is a power move and NOT a power move is dependent on context, subtleties (your body language, tonality, etc,...), and culture, but not everybody reads a given situation the EXACT same. So ultimately, I think what power moves are is defined by the person or people it is being used on.

Hey JP,

Yeah, that is a good observation.

There is a certain amount of subjectivity on the part of the receiver, and your intended effect has to take into account who is on the receiving end.
So if you want to remind someone that he is being out of place or rude, and he is a highly socially unskilled individual, then you might have to be far more direct or obvious.

The interpretation is up to a certain point, of course.
Less subtle moves are less up to interpretation, and some are not at all -say, for example, shaking your hand with lots of force while looking at you with a scowl: that's aggressive and trying to dominate you, there isn't much room to consider that a neutral or friendly gesture-.

Also, on average, the higher up the people, the better they are at decoding power dynamics, so they will also misinterpret less what you're doing.

And finally, even if people misinterpret a power move, that doesn't mean the power move has no effect.
If someone always reads power moves against him as neutral, he will rarely raise in the social standings because everyone will consider him as submissive and socially unskilled.

Condescending Boss

JP,

Have you considered that you might have been antagonizing your boss?

From your message, I get the feeling that it might be a possibility.

If you have been using a lot of power moves with your boss, it's possible that might be the case.

Power-aligning is usually a far better strategy to get power and have a good career in workplaces.
Trying to get power at work with more covert power moves can easily make you come across as uncooperative and overly rebellious. Potentially, as a threat, too.

On Your Example of "Sorry"

Also, when you say this:

"Sorry about that, I didn't mean to make you re-do all that work"

You are expanding on your mistake.
You are reminding him that he has to redo all the work because of you (and your mistake).

 

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on July 26, 2020, 7:51 am

Condescending Boss

JP,

Have you considered that you might have been antagonizing your boss?

From your message, I get the feeling that it might be a possibility.

If you have been using a lot of power moves with your boss, it's possible that might be the case.

Power-aligning is usually a far better strategy to get power and have a good career in workplaces.
Trying to get power at work with more covert power moves can easily make you come across as uncooperative and overly rebellious. Potentially, as a threat, too.

Hi Lucio, thanks for your response.

Yes I've considered that, and you may be correct to a certain degree. The old me would use "one-up" power moves, but these days I've been using majority "one-cross" power moves. We usually have a pretty good relationship, and he's usually more tactful about giving feedback, but nowadays he's starting to be more aggressive about the most minor things. He also does have a tendency to talk bad about previous people in my position (there were only two, but I don't think he said too much good things about them), so I suspect he has made this a habit in his thinking.

To be fair to him though, he is under considerable amount of pressure due to suddenly taking on extra responsibilities, but I don't think I should tolerate disrespect.

On Your Example of "Sorry"

Also, when you say this:

"Sorry about that, I didn't mean to make you re-do all that work"

You are expanding on your mistake.
You are reminding him that he has to redo all the work because of you (and your mistake).

Yeah, I wanted to try using this as a power move because in my experience while working in other companies, I've said "Sorry" in a submissive manner (owning up a little more than I should) a little too much, and I ended up being the scapegoat for anything that went wrong. Especially when I obviously had nothing to do with it. For example, as a line cook, I was getting blamed for someone else's mistake when they made an entree or dish. By the way, just as an off-note, I noticed you added some notes in your course on how to apologize, thank you for that.

Going back to my current situation, I think he does not see it as a power move and that it is emboldening him. It is possible that you may be right and that he may see it as a power move and is getting aggressive about it. In fact, maybe all those times I said my submissive "Sorry"s, everyone saw it as a power move and my boss countered it by acting aggressively.

Moving back on topic, I agree with what you said about people who don't see power moves rarely rise in any relatively large organization. However, in my cases, the people I have reported to are not usually managers (barring really small companies of less than 20 people). I think in most people's cases, it's unlikely that we're reporting directly to middle management in a medium to large organization, so I think it may be worth exploring the question: "How do we know if someone is interpreting your actions as a power move or as a submissive move?"

Just an addendum to the above, I think culture plays a big part in interpreting power moves as well. For example, Germans consider it rude when there is no eye-contact when speaking with someone, and Japanese consider it rude if there is too much eye-contact.

Absolutely, culture plays a big role.

Another example from Korea, where I'm staying right now, it's common to ask "how old are you" as one of the first questions, which would be considered as nosy and overly invasive in the West. And answering such a question right away in the West would give away a lot of power since once is supposed to enforce boundaries that early on.

One more note on the relativity of power dynamics: once you get good at seeing and analyzing social dynamics, you can also generally see and understand if someone is interpreting your actions as strong, as overly aggressive, or as submissive.
So that helps you calibrate.

If you want to share some more examples with your boss, feel free to share more and I'll give you some feedback.
That might help you to troubleshoot and see if there might be some communication issues at the source of his change in behavior for the worst.

 

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

I really like that you mentioned the cultural difference while you were in Korea, it's a clear example of actions being misinterpreted.

Just a bit of an update, I did casually mention a few days ago that I noticed his tone came off a bit condescending, and I also mention that I know he's under a lot of pressure just to give him an out. I also framed this as something that is temporary in which we need to work together to pull through. It went pretty well, I haven't gotten any messages with a condescending tone any more. I know the "working together" part was a bit of a strong power move, but I didn't know what else to do to deal with the awkwardness and wanted to end on a good note.

Going back to the original topic, I think we can read someone's reaction (through facial micro-expressions) to our power moves to see if THEY read it as a power move, but with this pandemic situation,  it's hard to read someone's reaction over the phone (no video), which is how I'm pretty much communicating with everyone in the company.

Using "sorry" as an example though, here are the kinds of responses I think we would expect if they interpret it as a Power move, Neutral, or Submission:

Power move--Would try to get the power back by minimizing effect as much as possible. "No no no! Look, it's fine!"

Neutral--Doesn't really care, similar to "power move" scenario but doesn't try so hard to minimize. "Sure, all good..."

Submission--Would capitalize on it. "Yeah, you better be sorry" OR "I don't want to deal with this ever again, do you understand?" (In my case, he went radio silent)

I think the times I apologized to my boss (even as a power move), he would normally respond with "No no! It's ok!". But now with the extra work stress (due to layoffs), he would try to make me apologize (similar to "social scalping"), then he would not respond to my apology. So in other words, I think he originally saw it as a power move, but once he started getting stressed at work, he saw it as a submissive move. That's my take on it. I wish I could provide more examples for you, but that was literally the only problem I've had with him so far :).

 

Hello JP,

Cool, if that was the only problem, then it seems like you're doing well.

Quote from JP on August 3, 2020, 7:10 am

Just a bit of an update, I did casually mention a few days ago that I noticed his tone came off a bit condescending, and I also mention that I know he's under a lot of pressure just to give him an out. I also framed this as something that is temporary in which we need to work together to pull through. It went pretty well, I haven't gotten any messages with a condescending tone any more. I know the "working together" part was a bit of a strong power move, but I didn't know what else to do to deal with the awkwardness and wanted to end on a good note.

A few great persuasion techniques there:

  1. You provided a great excuse for his poor behavior: that helped me save face, plus provided a plausible explanation that you could both blame for his bad behavior. An explanation that it's neither your or his fault. Easy to accept, and easy to overcome
  2. Temporary nature of the "exception": since it's temporary, the frame was already positive, and positive for you, meaning that you both expected the poor behavior would stop
  3. Working together frame: yeah, you guessed it, that was quite a bit of a power move since it put you and him on the same level on this problem. But if he accepted it, all good
  4. Ending on a positive tone: great. It's the ABC of good persuasion and keeping good relationships with the boss, and you kept it in mind, and made sure it was there

And yes, I totally agree with you, noticing their reaction is a great way to understand how they understood our own actions.

Great observation on capitalizing on the submission to acquire even more power and it being similar to social scalping.
I gave it a name, "power scalping", and mentioned it originated from your observation.

JP has reacted to this post.
JP
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?