Let's say a manager talking to their employee and saying "I have received multiple comments about your work, and I think you should work better", while in fact it's her own opinion, and in reality nobody made any comments.

Is there a word describing such bluff?



  1. draw someone's attention away from something


A couple more have come to mind. The manager may be said to be "feigning impassivity", or the manager may be "dissembling", although the latter is admittedly a more general term that may not fit the specificity the OP is asking for.

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    Far too hypernymic. Notice that @Bruce Murray did not think this a good enough 'answer'. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 26 '20 at 14:47
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    Ah, @EdwinAshworth, you make me smile. "hypernymic"? I like it. Anyway, I could expand on my answer by saying that I have some minimal experience in the field of psychology, and in therapeutic environments, the term "deflecting" is commonly used to describe just this kind of behavior. I was afraid, however, that my lack of documentation would lead to downvotes and criticism. – RobJarvis Jun 26 '20 at 15:16
  • @EdwinAshworth That Bruce Murray didn't flesh out his comment as an answer doesn't mean it wouldn't have made for a solid answer. – Richard Kayser Jun 26 '20 at 15:45
  • @Richard Kayser An answer giving a word whose attached defiinition does not mention the negative opinion OP mentions is not a 'solid' answer on ELU. 'Misdirection' is another suggestion that without a specifying definition is not close enough. 'Pass the buck' is closer, involving shift of blame, but still does not mandate negative comments. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 26 '20 at 18:57
  • @EdwinAshworth I intended my comment to be more general. Just because someone commented rather than answered doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t consider their comment a worthy basis for an answer. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they didn’t feel like providing an answer, maybe they didn’t have time to do it, etc. The fact is that unless you’re a mind reader, you don’t know why Bruce Murray commented rather than answered. That was my point. The first part of your comment re too hypernymic was valid, the second out of bounds. – Richard Kayser Jun 26 '20 at 20:07

How about the idiom pass the buck? From Lexido:

pass the buck: Shift the responsibility for something to someone else.

In attributing her negative feedback to comments made by other employees, the manager shifted the responsibility for that feedback from herself to those other employees.

  • Or just 'blame someone else'. Not close enough. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 26 '20 at 18:57

Seems like a perfect example of subterfuge. From Lexico:

subterfuge: Deceit used in order to achieve one's goal; e.g., ‘he had to use subterfuge and bluff on many occasions’

The "deceit" is the manager's creation of fake sources of negative feedback concerning the employee's performance. The manager's "goal" is for the employee to improve their performance. Note that the Lexico example includes the OP's word "bluff".

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