Power tactics


In this article, we review popular tactical options and the conditions under one may be more effective than another. Discussion is based around,

· Power tactics people use to translate power bases into specific action
· Options individuals have for influencing their bosses, coworkers, or employees
· Effective options out of these compared to others

Research has identified nine distinct influence tactics:

1. Legitimacy: Relying on one’s authority position or stressing that a request is in accordance with organizational policies or rules.

2. Rational persuasion: Presenting logical arguments and factual evidence to demonstrate that a request is reasonable.
3. Inspirational appeals: Developing emotional commitment by appealing to a target’s values, needs, hopes, and aspirations.

4. Consultation: Increasing the target’s motivation and support by involving hi or her in deciding how the plan or change will be done.

5. Exchange: rewarding the target with benefits or favors in exchange for following a request.

6. Personal appeals: Asking for compliance based on friendship or loyalty.

7. Ingratiation: Using flattery, praise, or friendly behavior prior to making a request.

8. Pressure: Using warnings, repeated demands, and threats.

9. Coalitions: Enlisting the aid of other people to persuade the target or using the support of others as a reason for the target to agree.

Some tactics are usually more effective than others. Specifically, evidence indicates that rational, persuasion, inspirational appeals, and consultation tend to be the most effective. On the other hand pressure tends to frequently backfire and is typically the least effective of the nine tactics.

You can also increase your chance of success by using more than one type of tactic at the same time or sequentially, as long as your choices are compatible. For instance, using both ingratiation and legitimacy can lessen the negative reactions that might come from the appearance of being “dictated to� by the boss.

But some influences tactics work better depending on the direction of influence. As shown in the table below studies have found that rational persuasion is the only tactic that is effective across organizational levels. Inspirational appeals works best as a downward influencing tactic with subordinates. When pressure works, it’s almost always to achieve downward influence. And the use of personal appeals and coalition are most effective with lateral influence attempts.

In addition to the direction of influence, a number of other factors have found to affect which tactics work best. These include the sequencing of tactics, a person’s skill in using the tactic, a person’s relative power, the type of request and how the request is perceived, the culture of the organization, and country-specific cultural factors.

Preferred Power Tactics by Influence direction

Upward influence
Downward influence

Lateral influence
Rational persuasion Rational persuasion Inspirational appeals Pressure
Consultation Ingratiation Exchange Legitimacy
Rational persuasion Consultation Ingratiation Exchange
Legitimacy Personal appeals Coalitions

You’re more likely to be effective if you begin with “softer� tactics that rely on personal power such as personal and inspirational appeal, rational persuasion, and consultation. If these fail, you can move to “harder� tactics which emphasize formal power and involve greater costs and risks such as exchange, coalitions, and pressure. Interestingly, it’s been found that using a single soft tactic is more effective than a single hard tactic; and that combining two soft tactics, or a soft tactic and rational persuasion, is more effective than any single tactic or a combination of hard tactics.

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