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:
- Stalking the Elephant in the Room: I
- The expression "the elephant in the room" describes the thought that most of us are thinking,
and none of us dare discuss. Usually, we believe that in avoidance lies personal safety. But free-ranging
elephants present intolerable risks to both the organization and its people.
- Durable Agreements
- People at work often make agreements in which they commit to cooperate — to share resources, to
assist each other, or not to harm each other. Some agreements work. Some don't. What makes agreements durable?
- 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.
- Some Hazards of Skip-Level Interviews: I
- Although skip-level interviews have their place, they can be dangerous, explosive, and harmful to the
organization. What are the dangers?
- The Power and Hazards of Anecdotes: II
- Anecdotes are powerful tools of persuasion, but with that power comes a risk that we might become persuaded
of false positions. Here is Part II of a set of examples illustrating some hazards of anecdotes.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 21: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: III
- People who behave narcissistically tend to regard themselves as special. They systematically place their own interests and welfare ahead of anyone or anything else. In this part of the series we consider how this claimed specialness affects the organization and its people. Available here and by RSS on March 21.
- And on March 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: IV
- Narcissistic behavior at work is more damaging than rudeness or egotism. It leads to faulty decisions that compromise organizational missions. In this part of the series we examine the effects of constant demands for attention and admiration. Available here and by RSS on March 28.
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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.