To influence is to have an effect on people that helps to determine their actions, behavior, perceptions, or attitudes. The opposite of influence is to have no effect. But most of us regard influencing others as bringing their actions, behavior, and views more into line with our own. The opposite of that sense of influence would then be inducing others to adopt positions that contradict our own.
Because I know of no English word for that kind of influence, I'll call it anti-influence. Like influence, anti-influence can be abused, but let us consider only unintentional anti-influence.
Especially in knowledge-oriented workplaces, anti-influence can be costly, when groups engaged in collaborative problem solving might reject contributions that could have led to brilliant solutions. How does this happen?
One widely used framework for studying influence consists of six principles of persuasion developed by Robert Cialdini. For each of the six, I suggest below how they can lead to anti-influence.
- To use reciprocity, the influencer induces in the target a sense of indebtedness by means of gifts or favors.
- If someone frequently fails to reciprocate, others may develop resentments. Then later, when the non-reciprocator tries to influence the team, suspicion and resentment can block adoption of any of the non-reciprocator's suggestions.
- Commitment and consistency
- People like to see themselves as consistent — that they follow through on their commitments.
- If an Especially in knowledge-
anti-influence can be costlyanti-influencer is known for inconsistency, and not following through, others might develop distrust. The probability of rejection of his or her contributions is then elevated, however obviously correct they might be.
- Social proof
- When we're uncertain, we seek confirmation of our choices by observing what others do.
- Most companies, departments, and work groups loathe being the first to adopt a practice. And if someone who's widely disrespected advocates a position, that disrespect affects how people assess the advocated position, likely due, in part, to the halo effect.
- People we like, especially people who are like us, or whom we find physically attractive, are more effective influencers — for us.
- If someone is widely disliked, when that person tries to influence the team to adopt a position, that dislike affects how people assess the advocated position, likely due again, in part, to the halo effect.
- People respect authority. At work, the emblems of authority are rank and professional respect, often indicated by office location, size, and furnishings.
- People of low rank, or who are new to the organization or to the subject matter, or who lack elite professional credentials, have a more difficult time gaining adherents to their positions, however correct they may be.
- The principle of scarcity is that the more rare and difficult-to-obtain something is, the more it's valued.
- Those who offer their opinions and thoughts too liberally are more likely to find them ignored or even opposed.
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- When Power Attends the Meeting
- When the boss or supervisor of the chair of a regular meeting "sits in," disruption almost
inevitably results, and it's usually invisible to the visitor. Here are some of the risks of sitting
in on the meetings of your subordinates.
- Hostile Collaborations
- Sometimes collaboration with people we hold in low regard can be valuable. If we enter a hostile collaboration
without first accepting both the hostility and the value, we might sabotage it outside our awareness,
and that can render the effort worthless — or worse. What are the dynamics of hostile collaborations,
and how can we do them well?
- On Being the Canary
- Nobody else seems to be concerned about what's going on. You are. Should you raise the issue? What are
the risks? What are the risks of not raising the issue?
- Rope-A-Dope in Organizational Politics
- Mohammed Ali's strategy of "rope-a-dope" has wide application. Here's an example of applying
it to workplace politics at the organizational scale.
- Cultural Indicators of Political Risk
- Because of fire risk, hiking in dry forests during dry seasons can be dangerous. In the forest, we stay
safe from fire if we attend to the indicators of fire risk. In the workplace, do you know the indicators
of political risk?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 29: Newtonian Blind Alleys: II
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- And on June 5: I Could Be Wrong About That
- Before we make joint decisions at work, we usually debate the options. We come together to share views, and then a debate ensues. Some of these debates turn out well, but too many do not. Allowing for the fact that "I could be wrong" improves outcomes. Available here and by RSS on June 5.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.