Aminder Nijjar’s recent post about Career Image sent me off on a little journey into the world of impression management.
- How do people try to control or influence the images they present to their work colleagues?
- To what extent is career success linked to one’s ability to present an acceptable image?
A commonly used list of impression management tactics was produced by Jones and Pitman in 1982. They listed the following tactics:
- Ingratiation — getting people to like you
- Self-promotion — telling people how good you are
- Exemplification — convincing people that you work really hard
- Supplication — getting people to sympathise with you
- Intimidation — threatening or appearing dangerous
Much of the research on self-presentation has focused on ingratiation and self-promotion (which seem to correspond respectively to the pull and push styles of influencing).
It appears that getting people to like you (ingratiation) is more strongly linked to success (both in terms of objective career progress — promotions — and in performance evaluations) than self-promotion. Perhaps because of the halo effect, this seems to have the biggest impact during the early stages of a work relationship.
However, impression management can be dangerous. If you get self-promotion wrong, you may appear conceited rather than competent. If you fudge ingratiation you may be labelled as sychophantic rather than likeable.
Turnley & Bolino (2001) link self-monitoring to success in using impression management techniques. So, the more you are aware of what you are doing and the impact it is having on people, the more likely you are to leave a good impression.
Harris et al. (2007) link success in impression management with ‘political skill’ which they define as ‘the ability to effectively understand others at work, and to use such knowledge to influence others‘. So, the better you are at sussing out what makes other people tick, the better you will be at impression management.
If someone is lacking in self-monitoring or political skills, they may be better off not trying to use these tactics.
- How often do we draw attention to impression management as a component of career success?
- What can we do to promote self-monitoring and political skills?
- How often do you use ingratiation, self-promotion, exemplification, supplication or intimidation in your career?
- Harris, K.J., Kacmar, K.M., Zivnuska, S. & Shaw, J.D. (2007) The impact of political skill on impression management effectiveness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(1) 278–285.
- Higgins, C.A., Judge, T.A. & Ferris, G.R. (2003) Influence tactics and work outcomes: a meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 24, 89–106.
- Jones, E. E. & Pittman, T. S. (1982). Toward a general theory of strategic self presentation. In Suls, J. (ed) Psychological perspectives on the self. Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 231–262.
- Turnley, W.H. & Bolino, M.C. (2001) Achieving desired images while avoiding undesired images: exploring the role of self-monitoring in impression management. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(2) 351-60.
- Wayne, S.J. & Liden, R.C. (1995) Effects of impression management on performance ratings: A longitudinal study. Academy of Management Journal, 38(1) 232-260.
Related post: How to make people like you