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Build Your Career Get Ahead

3 'Undercover' Techniques to Get Ahead in Your Career

undercover techniques to use in your career
Credit: Stock-Asso/Shutterstock

Undercover agents and police officers go through extensive training to do their jobs. Some training, such as learning state laws and self-defense, is typically – and hopefully – not needed in an office setting, but some of the techniques taught in undercover training could accelerate your professional career.

"The skills that are developed as a detective or police officer can be invaluable in the corporate environment," said Ari Zelmanow, psychologist and retired police detective.

Undercover training includes learning how to interpret verbal and nonverbal cues, and how to communicate in a way that produces specific responses. Derrick Levasseur, author of "The Undercover Edge" (Sourcebooks, 2018), used these techniques and skills to win the reality show "Big Brother," and he also thinks they can be used for success in your career.

"Working undercover forced me to develop relationships with a variety of people in order to accomplish the mission," he told Business News Daily. "The ability to build relationships with colleagues, supervisors and clients is critical to creating success at work."

Here are three ways you can use undercover techniques and police tactics to advance in your career.

Everyone has different passions, ambitions and motivations. Understanding your co-workers and knowing what makes them tick will help you achieve success.

"When you're trying to figure someone out, it's important to know ... what motivates them," Levasseur told Business News Daily. "The ability to recognize how to incentivize should be a prerequisite to any conversation where your intent is to create a certain response."

When you understand your co-workers and managers, you work better together. You'll be seen as a team player and know how to play to each co-worker's strengths. It's also helpful to understand your clients. If you do, you'll be able to cater to their needs and be more effective.

"The truth is, some people will help you excel in the workplace and some will hinder your growth," Levasseur said. "The key is knowing the difference."

During interrogation, people are typically trying to deceive the investigator and will only offer just enough information for a reaction. If the investigator stays quiet, they often receive additional information, according to Levasseur.

"If the investigator refrains from saying anything, just for a few seconds, it creates a moment of awkwardness due to the silence," he said. "This silence suggests that the investigator was not satisfied with the initial answer, creating a psychological pressure on the interviewee to continue speaking. In some cases, the next words out of their mouth can be the most important."

Levasseur recommends this tactic in the office. The next time you're having an important conversation, try to stay quiet for a little bit longer.

"That extra second of silence can sometimes be the difference-maker," he said.

David M. White, director of the Seton Hall University School of Law's Conflict Management Program, said active listening is important when you're talking to anyone in the office.

"Whether dealing with an intern or corner-office occupant, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," he told Business News Daily. "Demonstrate that concern through respectful attentiveness. High-gain, open-ended questions invite the other party to provide a wealth of information without interruption. Let them speak."

Communication and negotiation are crucial for detectives. These skills are also vital in any workplace.

"Undercover officers have to 'convince' people that they are different than who they are – hence the undercover part," said Zelmanow. "Uniformed officers have to 'convince' people to talk to them, even when it's against their best interest."

To get a confession from suspects, officers need to build a rapport, gaining trust and credibility. It's also important that officers communicate in a way that people understand. Similarly, you should be constantly building a rapport with clients and co-workers. If you do, more people will want to work with you and do business with you. 

Saige Driver

Saige Driver graduated from Ball State University in 2015 with a degree in journalism. She started her career at a radio station in Indiana, and is currently a B2B staff writer at Business News Daily. She loves reading and her beagle mix, Millie. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.