Poisoning the Well

A boss arranges one-on-one meetings with two underperforming employees: Becky and Bill. He plans to fire one of them.

Boss: “Becky, why did you fail to meet this quarter’s performance goals?”

Becky: *explains*

Boss: “Thanks, Becky. Can you please tell Bill I’m ready?”

Becky: “Of course. Assuming he’s on time this morning. You know how Bill is—always late! He was tardy to our project meeting three times this month….”

The boss now has a tarnished impression of Bill as he begins Bill’s performance review.

Poisoning the Well is when adverse information about a target is shared with an audience to discredit the target before the target speaks.