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:
- How to Stop Being Overworked: II
- Although many of us are overloaded as a result of our own choices, some are overloaded by abusive supervisors.
If you find yourself in that situation, what can you do?
- Getting Into the Conversation
- In well-facilitated meetings, facilitators work hard to ensure that all participants have opportunities
to contribute. The story is rather different for many meetings, where getting into the conversation
can be challenging for some.
- Impasses in Group Decision-Making: IV
- Some impasses that develop in group decision-making relate to the substance of the discussion. Some
are not substantive, but still present serious obstacles. What can we do about nonsubstantive impasses?
- Problem Displacement and Technical Debt
- The term problem displacement describes situations in which solving one problem creates another.
It sometimes leads to incurring technical debt. How? What can we do about it?
- High Falutin' Goofy Talk: III
- Workplace speech and writing sometimes strays into the land of pretentious but overused business phrases,
which I like to call "high falutin' goofy talk." We use these phrases with perhaps less thought
than they deserve, because they can be trite or can evoke indecorous images. Here's Part III of a collection
of phrases and images to avoid.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 27: Stone-Throwers at Meetings: II
- A stone-thrower in a meeting is someone who is determined to halt forward progress. Motives vary, from embarrassing the chair to holding the meeting hostage in exchange for advancing an agenda. What can chairs do about stone-throwers? Available here and by RSS on March 27.
- And on April 3: Career Opportunity or Career Trap: I
- When we're presented with an opportunity that seems too good to be true, as the saying goes, it probably is. Although it's easy to decline free vacations, declining career opportunities is another matter. Here's a look at indicators that a career opportunity might be a career trap. Available here and by RSS on April 3.
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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.