Impression management


We know that people have an ongoing interest in how others perceive and evaluate them. For example, Indians spend thousands and millions of rupees on clothes, jewellery, and marriages all intended to maintain their status in society.

Young managers and executives are becoming more conscious of their looks and the way they carry themselves. They go to the gym and are members of reputed clubs. Being perceived positively by others should have benefits for people in organization. It might, for instance, help them initially to get the jobs they want in an organization and, once hired, to get favorable evaluations, superior salary increases, and more rapid promotions. In a political context, it might help sway the distribution of advantages in their favor.

The process by which individuals attempt to control the impression others form of them is called impressions management. It’s a subject that has gained the attention of Human Resource researchers only recently.

Is everyone concerned with impression management (IM)? No! Who, then might we predict engage in IM? No surprise here! It’s our old friend, the high self-monitor. Low self-monitors tend to present images of themselves that are consistent with their personalities, regardless of the beneficial or detrimental effects for them. In contrast, high self-monitors are good at reading situations and molding their appearances and behavior to fit each situation.

Keep in mind that IM does not imply that the impressions people convey are necessarily false. Executives for instance, may actually believe that ads contribute little to sales in your region. But misrepresentation can have a high cost. If the image claimed is false, you may be discredited. If you “cry wolf� once too often, no one is likely to believe you when the wolf really comes. So the impression manager must be cautious not to be perceived as insincere or manipulative.

There are situations in which individuals are more likely to misrepresent themselves or more likely to get away with it. Situations that are characterized by high uncertainty or ambiguity provide relatively little information challenging a fraudulent claim and reduce the risks associated with misrepresentation.

Most of the studies undertaken to test the effectiveness of IM techniques have been limited to determining whether IM behavior is related to job interview success. Employment interview make a particularly relevant area of study since applicants etc clearly attempting to present positive images of themselves and there are relatively objective outcome measures (written assessments and typically a hire—don’t hire recommendation)

The conclusion is that most job applicants use IM techniques and that when IM behavior is used, it works. In one study, for instance, interviewers felt that applicants for a position as a customer service representative who used IM techniques performed better in the interview, and they seemed somewhat more inclined to hire these people. Moreover, when the researchers considered applicants’ credentials, they concluded that it was the IM techniques alone that influenced the interviewers. That is, it didn’t seem to matter if applicants were well or poorly qualified. If they used IM techniques, they did better in the interview.