Point At The Mulberry But Curse The Locust Tree
To discipline, control, or warn others whose status or position excludes them from direct confrontation; use analogy and innuendo. Without directly naming names, those accused cannot retaliate without revealing their complicity.
I once worked with a group of developers who had a difficult to deal with boss. However, I got along exceptionally well with this same guy. These developers could not confront him directly about problems, but if it suited me, I could mention that I'd "heard things" in the office and would "let him know" if things were going on. I kept my favored developer friends in the loop, and likewise, they spilled their guts to me about everything that was going on at the company. This made me extremely valuable in the eyes of my boss, so he treated me well. I was also able to position things in the developer's boss's mind, so that he reacted favorably and rationally to business needs, improving his stock in his boss's eyes as well! It turned out to be a win-win for all involved.