No whips or chains are needed, but women with fantasies of getting ahead can put role-playing to smart use, a new book suggests MARJO JOHNE Special to The Globe and Mail Wednesday, April 25, 2007 Her co-worker was being bad again, so Lisa Robyn set out to punish him. Tired of his habit of keeping work-related problems a secret -- and then letting everyone else clean up his mess -- Ms. Robyn shamed him into 'fessing up at the next meeting. Exposed and penitent, her colleague fell to his knees in front of everyone, and begged Ms. Robyn's forgiveness. "That kneeling part made me laugh, because he was actually just joking," Ms. Robyn recalls. "But the power -- the feeling that I had complete domination over him -- that was real." Ladies, say hello to the corporate dominatrix. It doesn't require whips, chains or leather boots, but if you're harbouring fantasies about getting ahead in your career, it may be time to assume the position of corporate dominatrix, and engage in a little workplace S&M, argues Ms. Robyn, the author of a new book called The Corporate Dominatrix: Six Roles to Play to Get Your Way at Work. Beneath the suits and civilities, workplaces really are dens of sadomasochism, where bosses and workers unwittingly act out three basic S&M roles: dominants, submissives and switchables, who move back and forth between the first two roles, Ms. Robyn says. The result of these three groups of players interacting daily in the workplace is a constant surge of pleasure and pain, she says. For instance, think back to the last time your boss called you in for your annual spanking -- err, performance review. Did he start sadistically by rhyming off all of the mistakes you made last year, only to tell you in the end that you did a great job over all and deserve a generous raise? And did you come out of that meeting feeling incredibly good, and thinking what a great chap that boss of yours is? Yup, S&M. Even the words people use at work suggest the sadomasochistic dynamic. Ms. Robyn recalls a former boss suggesting her work life would improve dramatically if she simply "surrendered" to authority -- a remark that sparked the idea for her book. "People say things like 'they're slaving away at their jobs,' " says Ms. Robyn, who researched her book by spending time with professional dominatrices. "There's an undeniable pleasure-pain component in the workplace that makes the connection to sadomasochism a fair one." To survive and succeed in this command-and-control environment, women need to arm themselves with the psychology-based tools of the professional dominatrix, Ms. Robyn says. But that doesn't necessarily mean putting on the leather and cracking the whip. Like the professional dominatrix, the corporate dominatrix plays different roles to achieve desired outcomes. "A professional dominatrix assumes different roles to help other people realize their fantasies," Ms. Robyn explains. "A corporate dominatrix, on the other hand, role-plays to realize her own fantasy, whether that's to become head of a department or president of a company." Ms. Robyn has identified six roles for the corporate dominatrix. Most women will identify with at least one of them, Ms. Robyn says, but the trick is to pick the right role for the right situation. The goddess Who she is: The dominatrix as goddess is confident, independent and thrives on the admiration of others. While some women may be too modest or shy to acknowledge praise, the goddess knows how to accept the worship of her superiors and peers. She takes the high road in tough situations, often choosing to respond to hostile co-workers with composed indifference. The goddess is magnanimous, granting favours without expecting repayment -- although she inevitably gets repaid, because people naturally want to lay offerings at her feet. When to play goddess: The confident and unflappable nature of the goddess can be a godsend in situations where your abilities are thrown into question. For instance, say a co-worker is trying to make his star brighter by tarnishing yours. Instead of getting defensive, get your inner goddess to tell everyone on the team, in a calm and dignified manner, how you've contributed to the department. And then thank your jealous co-worker sincerely for reminding you of the importance of blowing your own horn every once in a while. The queen Who she is: The queen rules with impunity. Forget about pussyfooting around your subordinates; when you play queen, you should have no problem using your position to get what you want. But like a true monarch, you are also keenly aware of the organizational hierarchy and know that management has power over you. You also know that it's best to rule with a velvet glove instead of an iron fist. As queen, you don't micro-manage or allow yourself to get bogged down in administrative details. Instead, you focus on the big picture and let someone else sweat the small stuff. When to play queen: The queen rules best in times of great change, when it seems like no one else but you can see the big picture. Say you've just announced plans to introduce a new project management system in your department. You know that, in the long run, the new system will save time and money but your subordinates insist it will slow down their productivity. Play the regal role: Pull rank and tell your team to accept the change. Period. (Although as a fair and credible ruler, you may want to explain the strategic thinking behind this decision).