Analysing your stakeholders

let's go a'slayin' by mugley

The CEO of Dracula Corp regretted calling a meeting of stakeholders

Here is another bit of management theory that could be usefully applied to careers work…

Many career theories address the influence of other people on an individual’s career choice. For example, Community Interaction theory looks at the mechanisms by which peers, parents, ethnic groups, etc., influence individual career decisions. Clients often have to take into account the views and needs of significant people in their lives. Does management theory have any light to shine on this?

In management, your stakeholders are any individuals or groups who are affected or influenced by what you do (output stakeholders), or who can affect or influence what you do (input stakeholders).

For a business, stakeholders will include shareholders, bond-holders, customers and employees, but may also be extended to include policy makers, regulators, the general public, the media, etc. In career terms, your stakeholders would be anyone in a position to influence the outcomes of your career decisions and anyone who is likely to be affected by your choices.

A very common way of analysing stakeholders is the Mendelow Power-Interest matrix. However, this tends to focus attention on the input stakeholders who can affect your activities. This is perhaps also a weakness of Community Interaction theory.

Stakeholder salience

Stakeholder salience (Mitchell, Agle & Wood, 1997)

A slightly more sophisticated method for analysing stakeholders was developed by Mitchell, Agle & Wood (1997). This looks at three factors which determine stakeholder salience:

  1. Power. How much control might the stakeholder exert over your actions? This might be in the form of supplying or withholding financial, emotional or other kinds of support. It might be an employer, whose decision can determine your path.
  2. Legitimacy. How much of claim might the stakeholder have over you? This could be a legal claim, such as an employment contract, or a moral claim, which might be exercised by a parent who has invested in your education. It could relate to family dependants who rely on your income or who might be affected by any relocation.
  3. Urgency. How much of a clamour might the stakeholder make to get your attention? This relates to the amount of fuss someone makes and their belief that they have a right to influence your decision.
I can see this model being quite useful in helping a client who is trying to balance competing demands from various quarters, especially in distinguishing between Power and Urgency.
However, it would be nice, in addition, to have a choice of strategies for dealing with the different stakeholders. One possibility that could meet this need again comes from management theory — Tannenbaum & Schmidt’s (1958) leadership styles continuum.
  • Telling — keeping people informed of your decisions but not taking into account their input.
  • Selling — attempting to win people over to your decision and gain support.
  • Consulting — seeking input before making the decision.
  • Joining — working collaboratively to reach a mutually acceptable decision.
It might be possible to extend the continuum to include Disregarding at one end and Conceding at the other. Having analysed your stakeholders, you could then decide on an appropriate approach.
  • How do you help your clients to evaluate their influences and those their decisions have an impact on?
  • What other responses might you suggest for handling the various career stakeholders?

Further reading

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