Impression Management Techniques

Conformity: Agreeing with someone else’s opinion in order to gain his or her approval.
Example: A manager tells his boss, ‘You are absolutely right on your reorganizations plan for the western regional office. I couldn’t agree with you more’.

Excuses: Explanations of a predicament creating event aimed at minimizing the apparent severity to the predicament.

Examples: Sales manager to boss. ‘We failed to get the ad in the paper on time, but no one responds to those ads anyway’.

Apologies: Admitting responsibility for an undesirable event and simultaneously seeking to get a pardon for the section

Example: Employee to boss, ‘I’m sorry I made a mistake on the report Please forgive me’.

Self-Promotion: Highlighting one’s best qualities downplaying one’s deficits and calling attention to one’s achievements.

Example: A salesperson tells his boss: ‘Matt worked unsuccessfully for three years to try to get that account I sewed it up in six weeks. I’m the best closer this company has’.

Flattery: Complementing others about their virtues in an effort to make one self appear perceptive and likeable.

Example: New sales trainee to peer. ‘You handled that client’s complaint so tactfully! I could never have handled that as well as you did’.

Favors: Doing nice for someone to gain that person’s approval.

Example: Sales person to prospective client, ‘I’ve got two tickets to the theater tonight that I can’t use. Take them. Consider it a thank you for taking the time to talk with me’.

Association: Enhancing or protecting one’s image by managing information about people and things with which one is associated.

Example: A job applicant says to an interviewer, “What a coincidence. Your boss and I were roommates in college”.

In terms of performance ratings, the picture is quite different. Ingratiation is positively related to performance rations, meaning that those who ingratiate with their supervisors get higher performance evaluations. However, self promotion appears to backfire – those who self promote actually seem to receive lower performance evaluations.

What explains these results? If you think about them, they make sense. Ingratiating always works because everyone likes to be treated nicely, whether it is the interviewer or the supervisor. However, self promotion may work only in interviews and backfire on the job because whereas the interviewer has little idea whether you are blowing smoke about your accomplishments, the supervisor knows because it is his or her job to observe you. Thus, if you are going to self promote, remember that what works in the interview will not always work once you are on the job.

The Ethics of Behaving Politically:

We conclude our discussion of politics by providing some ethical guidelines for political behavior. Although there are no clear cut ways to differentiate ethical from unethical politicking, there are some questions you should consider. Ask yourself: what is the utility of engaging in the behavior? Sometimes we engage in political behaviors for little good reason. For example, Major League Baseball player Al Martin claimed he played football at USC when in fact he never did. Because Martin was playing baseball there was little to be gained buy his lie. Outright lies like this may be a rather extreme example of impression management, but many of us have distorted information to make a favorable impression. The point is that before we do so, one thing to keep in mind is whether it is really worth the risk. Another question to ask is an ethical one how does the utility of engaging in the political behavior balance out any harm (or potential harm) it will do to others? For example, complementing a supervisor on his or her appearance to curry favor is probably much less harmful than grabbing credit for a project that is deserved by others.

Our point is that immoral people can justify almost any behavior. Those who are powerful, articulate and persuasive are most vulnerable because they are likely to be able to get away with unethical practices successfully. When faced with an ethical dilemma regarding organizational politics try to consider the preceding issues (is playing politics worth the risk and will others be harmed in the process). If you have a strong power base, recognize the ability of power to corrupt. Remember, it’s a lot easier for the powerless to act ethically, if for no to her reason than they radically have very little political discretion to exploit.

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