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Leadership scholars Gary Yukl and J. Bruce Tracey studied influence in the workplace for more than a decade. They identified 11 different techniques, or “influencers,” that people commonly use at work. Yukl highlighted these in his respected book, LEADERSHIP IN ORGANISATIONS ( “Leadership in Organizations,” 8th edition, © 2013.)
These 11 influencers are as follows, classified into positive and negative tactics:
- Rational persuasion.
- Inspirational appeal.
- Personal appeals.
- Rational Persuasion
With rational persuasion, you persuade others with solid facts, clear explanations, and logical arguments.
For example, imagine that you’ve just pitched a new product idea to the rest of the management team. You can see that Pat, a key decision-maker, isn’t sold on your suggestion. So, you use facts and statistics from your research to explain how this new product will open up a new market for your organization.
Rational persuasion is most effective when you use it with someone who shares your objectives.
To use this influence technique, use good information gatheringstrategies, and make sure that your facts, statistics, and theories are accurate, well thought through, and relevant.
Also, brainstorm possible objections ahead of time, so that you have the information you need to address them, if they arise.
With apprising, you explain how your request, idea, or proposal will benefit the other person. However, the person doesn’t benefit directly from the project itself – the benefits come as a result of that person’s involvement or support.
For instance, imagine that one of your team members is reluctant to join a risky new project. However, you really need their expertise for the project to succeed, and you know that they wants to get a promotion. You explain that, if the team succeeds, all of you will get to make a presentation to the executive board. This would spotlight her /his contribution, and could lead to a promotion in future.
- Inspirational Appeal
You use this tactic when you appeal to another person’s emotions values, hopes, and ideals. Inspirational appeal helps you forge a strong emotional tie between the person and the project. This can be a powerful motivator.
For instance, let’s say that your organization has just moved its head office to a new community, and you’ve decided to sponsor an environmental clean-up day. To gain buy-in from your team members, who will be the chief volunteers, you explain how their efforts will improve the environment for everyone in the community, and how they’ll make things safer and healthier for local children and wildlife. For many of your people, this will provide a powerful inspiration.
When you use this approach, you ask people to help you plan how to achieve your goal.
For example, imagine that you want to develop a more effective system to manage your department’s sales pipeline. It’s a huge project, and you know that it won’t be successful unless you get support from everyone in your team. So, you ask team members to help you develop a solution.
This influence tactic is especially useful when you’re in charge of a change initiative, and you need help from people to carry out a particular task or project.
This tactic isn’t effective when people don’t have the skills, knowledge or resources needed to achieve the objective, or when what you want them to do clashes with other important objectives that they have.
This technique, which is based on reciprocity, involves rewarding others for their help or involvement with a request. This could be a reward of resources or information, help and support on another project or task, or something tangible (such as additional compensation or benefits).
For example, imagine that you have a report due by the end of the day, and you won’t finish it on time without assistance. You ask your colleague to help you compile the data. There’s no real benefit to the colleague if she/he assists you – this will possibly put them behind on their own work. However, you could offer to help them finish one of their next reports early, so that they might take an extra day off later in the month.
This tactic is appropriate when you have a request that offers no obvious benefits to others, yet will cost them a considerable amount of time, stress, or inconvenience.
With collaboration, you make it easier for the other person to get involved, or to approve your request.
For example, let’s say that you want a client to attend a meeting with your team, but she’s reluctant to participate because she’s busy and she has a long way to travel. So, you arrange for your team to visit her at her office instead. That way, she only has to take a small amount of time out of her schedule to join the meeting.
Collaboration might seem similar to the exchange tactic because, with both, you offer to do something for others. The key difference is that with exchange, you offer something to others, while with collaboration; you make it easier for others.
When you use negative approaches to influence, you can strain your relationships, hurt others, and damage your reputation. It’s also important to know about these negative techniques, so that you can tell when others are using them on you.
People use legitimating tactics when they attempt to establish their authority, or their right to request something from you. They might also try to prove that their request is consistent with organizational policies, rules, or practices.
People often use this technique with unreasonable requests, or when they’re unfamiliar with how much authority the person they want to influence has.
This tactic is linked to the idea of legitimate power . Therefore, it may be appropriate to use it if other more positive forms of influence have failed.
This is when someone uses other people to influence you, such as your boss, clients, colleagues, or team members – essentially, they try to “gang up” with others to push you into doing something.
The influencer might ask others to influence you directly. However, he might also simply use other people’s endorsement or opinions to sway your decision.
People use pressure tactics when they threaten others or act aggressively. They might make repeated demands for someone to change their mind, even after they have said “no.” Or, they may try to take away someone’s power, or discredit them.
Pressure tactics can tip into bullying, and leave people feeling stressed, upset, resentful, and angry.
With ingratiation, others try to make you feel better about yourself before they make a request. For example, they might praise you, or do you a favor, before they ask for your assistance.
This can turn into manipulation when the praise or flattery is insincere, or when people do favors so that they receive something in return, later down the line, without being honest about their intentions.
- Personal Appeals
People make personal appeals when they ask you to do things because of friendship, loyalty, kindness, or generosity.
This influence tactic can make you feel that someone has manipulated you, or that they’ve taken advantage of you.
Leadership scholars Gary Yukl and J. Bruce Tracey identified 11 influence tactics that people commonly use in the workplace. Yukl outlined these in his book, “Leadership in Organizations.”
The six positive influencers are:
- Rational persuasion.
- Inspirational appeal.
The five negative influencers are:
- Personal appeals.
It’s helpful to understand these tactics, so you can choose the right one to use when you need to influence others.
It’s also useful to understand negative influence tactics, so that you can avoid using them, and so that you can recognize when someone is using them on you
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