In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Influence Strategies/Tactics in the Workplace

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • The Foundation of Knowledge
  • Textbooks
  • The Emergence of Influence Tactics
  • Types of Influence Tactics
  • Antecedents of Influence Tactics
  • Outcomes of Influence Tactics
  • Peer Identification of Influence Tactics
  • The Cultural Context of Influence

Management Influence Strategies/Tactics in the Workplace
by
Mahfooz Ansari, Jocelyn Wiltshire
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 March 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0202

Introduction

This article is a selective guide through the literature on influence tactics, which is grounded in the power-influence approach to leadership, most popularly known as bases of social influence/power. A major premise of the theory is that the exercise of influence is the essence of leadership. The theory deals with reciprocal influence processes in leadership—that is, leader power over subordinates and that of subordinates over the leader. In reality, the direction of influence/power may be downward (supervisor to subordinate), upward (subordinate to supervisor), lateral (coworkers to coworkers), or outward (customer). Though the two terms—“power” and “influence”—are used interchangeably, they are conceptually different. Power is defined as the ability to influence, whereas influence is power in action or the demonstrated use of power, and it is viewed as the process of producing behavioral or psychological effects in a target person. One may have power, but he or she may not feel like using it. That is, the use of power is influence. Though influence and power are conceptually distinct, they are often used interchangeably. Power is also confused with authority. Whereas power is the capacity to influence, authority is the power associated with position or chair. This bibliography begins with a description of the foundation of knowledge and general overviews and textbooks. Next, it discusses the emergence and types of influence tactics. Finally, it summarizes the empirical evidence concerning the antecedents and outcomes of influence tactics, as well as the cultural context of influence.

General Overviews

Power is known as the capacity that one individual has to influence the behaviors of another. In other words, when an individual engages in an influence tactic, it is an exercise of their power. As such, understanding the nature of power and its acquisition in organizational settings is central to the literature and research on influence tactics. Elias 2008 provided a thorough overview of French and Raven’s taxonomy of bases of power (see Ansari 1990 and French and Raven 1959 under The Foundation of Knowledge) and its developments in the decades since. From power to actual influence behavior, Bolino, et al. 2016 offered an excellent overview of key research on impression management tactics, whereas Cialdini and Goldstein 2004 reviews the existing literature on the strategies of compliance and conformity. Mowday 1978 was perhaps the earliest to conduct groundbreaking empirical research on upward influence. Later researchers built their upward influence studies on these theoretical frameworks and empirical findings. Smith, et al. 2013 reported a meta-analytic study on the gendered nature of lateral and upward influence attempts. The results provided limited support to gender role theory such that men were more likely to engage in agentic influence tactics and women were more likely to receive personal advancement outcomes when they used communal influence tactics. Ferris, et al. 2019 reported a critical review on the already existing three categories of organizational politics—the perception of organizational politics, political behavior, and political skill, and suggested a new classification of organizational politics research. Their new classification scheme consisted of political characteristics, political actions, and political outcomes.

  • Bolino, M., D. Long, and W. Turnley. “Impression Management in Organizations: Critical Questions, Answers, and Areas for Future Research.” Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior 3 (2016): 377–406.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-orgpsych-041015-062337

    This is an excellent review of key questions and research related to impression management including antecedents, outcomes, cross-cultural implications, as well as the role of gender, political skill, self-monitoring, and hierarchical position in tactic effectiveness; clarifies the distinctions between general influence tactics, impression management, and self-presentation; discussion of honest versus deceptive impression management attempts; highlights key areas for future research.

  • Cialdini, R. B., and N. J. Goldstein. “Social Influence: Compliance and Conformity.” Annual Review of Psychology 55 (2004): 591–621.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.142015

    This is a commonly cited literature review of social influence research, with a predominant focus on compliance and conformity.

  • Elias, S. “Fifty Years of Influence in the Workplace.” Journal of Management History 14 (2008): 267–283.

    DOI: 10.1108/17511340810880634

    This is a historical overview of the prominent French and Raven taxonomy of social power bases; focuses on the empirical and theoretical developments of the taxonomy over the past several decades.

  • Ferris, R., B. P. Ellen III, C. P. McAllister, and L. P. Maher. “Recognizing Organizational Politics Research: A Review of the Literature and Identification of Future Research Directions.” Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior 6 (2019): 299–323.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-orgpsych-012218-015221

    Making a critical review on the previous three categories of organizational politics—the perception of organizational politics, political behavior, and political skill—Ferris and colleagues suggest a new framework with higher-level categories with which to classify organizational politics research. The new framework comprises political characteristics, political actions, and political outcomes.

  • Mowday, R. T. “The Exercise of Upward Influence in Organizations.” Administrative Science Quarterly 23 (1978): 137–156.

    DOI: 10.2307/2392437

    This is the earliest, groundbreaking empirical paper on upward influence tactics. Later researchers built their investigations, following the footpath of this theoretical framework.

  • Smith, A. N., M. B. Watkins, M. J. Burke, et al. “Gender Influence: A Gender Role Perspective on the Use and Effectiveness of Influence Tactics.” Journal of Management 39 (2013): 1156–1183.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206313478183

    This meta-analytic study examines the gendered nature of lateral and upward influence attempts. The results provide limited support to gender role theory such that men are more likely to use agentic influence tactics and women are more likely to receive personal advancement outcomes when they use communal influence tactics.

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