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A stylish varation on a classical torment: playing favourites.

(Also ideal for teachers, parents, or anyone whose approval carries weight).

Playing favourites — it’s one of the oldest ways of tormenting those under your command, and one of the best. Deserved or undeserved, so long as those in your employ are honest workers who take pride in their job, it’s sure to breed malaise in the work-environment as well as any other method of wickedness.

But it can get a little boring, you know? Year in year out, the same sausages on the plate; sometimes you just want to spice things up a little! So, here’s an elaboration of the classic-to-beat-all-classics, perfect for the winter 06/07 season:

Say you are managing a project involving two workers, both kind honestly people. Pick on one of them, the weaker of the two. Don’t be directly destructive in their criticism, but take every opportunity you can to take over or suggest obvious ways of doing even the simplest of tasks, as if you do not trust them in any way; be overwhelming in your control and never utter a positive word their way. Pay not much attention to the other worker.

Now, eventually, and here’s what you’re pushing for, the other worker will say something to you in a very direct manor saying that the other is capable of doing work without your constant interference in the presence of the other party (if they say it to you in private, simply ignore it).

This is your cue: from that moment, do nothing but praise the fellow you initially harassed so much; laud his diligence, eulogize his adroitness – whatever you can. And don’t for a moment make mention of his co-worker, who did stand up for him.

The torments in this strategy are manifold. For one, the worker you plagued so much at the start will not in any way believe your criticism. More than this, if he comes to you privately asking that the other have his efforts acknowledged, you should ignore him; he will not say it in front of his co-worker for implicit in such a strategy would be the assuming of a position of superiority, something which he will not want to do. But he will consider doing so, and that will be an extra little torment.

The other fellow, well, he is the victim of the torment of playing favourites, but the additional fact that it seems to be punishment for backing up a coworker will damage his spirit in a far more general and long-lasting way.

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