Dominance And Submission… At Work

I’ve gotten a little meaner at work in recent years. Basically I try and be nice to folks but it doesn’t work if you’re only nice. On the other hand if you’re always mean, people start hating you and avoiding you, or worse set you up for a fall. You gotta mix up the nice and the mean a little.
All the chain of command is in essence is a long chain of social dominance and submission. You just play the role of your part in the chain.
I use a lot of email, so my nice / mean defaults to this handy little policy to deal with stuff that needs to get done as a performance issue, or me getting paid / job description issues. Brainstorming, announcements etc don’t really apply to this model.
To someone ranking below me.
1st message is generally nice in tone, but still direct.
Failed to respond to first request gets original email forwarded to them and copied to their supervisor. Repeat of request without the nice tone.
Should they fail to respond to that, I simply contact their supervisor. It’s not my actual job to get them to do their job. (Anyone directly reporting to me at a 3rd contact simply gets written up and I ensure the task completion.)
To peer rank.
1st message is nice in tone plus direct.
Failure to respond original email forwarded to them, and/or a call to find out what is going on.
If a third contact is needed it’s by email and a copy goes to my supervisor.
A fourth contact is to them, my supervisor (and their supervisor if we don’t share one). Usually by this point I can’t compete my task at all without the assistance and I state that if it is true and move on to a different task until the problem is fixed.
To someone ranking above me.
1st message is typically short and direct. Minimize time wasting.
If something was going to be done / promised and is taking a long time, I prompt later and offer assistance towards completion if I can.
Rarely do I reject an answer, but in those rare times that I go a layer up the chain of command above my supervisor, I tell them that I am particularly serious on an issue and request their permission to go above them. This seems weak, but they almost always agree to it or grant my original request anyway. If they don’t, well that becomes one for the shit hits the fan archives. Too many of these events and the relationship between us is starting to break down anyway. I start contingency planning.
As an aside, “sensitive issues” are always attempted to be dealt with verbally and/or in person as quickly as possible. Failing that I just bite the bullet and it’s a paper trail as usual. Even if I look bad.
So basically you start pleasant, but aren’t afraid to use authority either. It’s amazing how nice everyone is after you start sticking to this policy. You have to stick with it though.


  1. Good outline. Somewhat rigid, as some cases might call for additional temps, etc.

    The ability/willingness to be less than totally amicable and nice at work is a primary reason some women suffer in the workplace. If you don't show your teeth once in a while, people tend not to respect you. And they won't consistently do what you want/need unless they respect you.

  2. Ms Lacrymosa says:

    Good approach, Athol- and that is a very assertive T Shirt design, lol.

  3. Athol Kay says:

    Yes it's just a basic outline, but that's the basic format.

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