How to Use Power to Influence
When a particular individual behaves according to your wishes, you have influenced that person. There are many situations in which you may want to influence another person’s behavior. You may want a child to stop whining, a member or a client to try a new program, or a coworker or subordinate to complete an undesirable task. Different situations call for different approaches. According to David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron in their book Developing Management Skills, there are three influence strategies- retribution, reciprocity and reason.
Retribution. This is the harshest of the strategies, and involves the use of intimidation and threats: “If you don’t do this, you will be punished.” Retribution is mainly used in cases of unequal power, such as supervisor and subordinate, and usually gets the task completed. However, this technique stifles the commitment and creativity of the subordinate and is often the sign of an insecure boss. It should be used only as a last resort in extreme situations. Beware of subtle forms of intimidation such as a boss reminding you that your job could be restructured at any time, or a manager publicly criticizing a subordinate’s report or method of training a member. A boss who uses this technique freely may even be violating the rights of subordinates.
Reciprocity. Reciprocity creates a win-win situation for both parties. For example, “If you do X, I will give you Y.” Reciprocity is also mainly used in a supervisor/subordinate relationship. While not as harsh as retribution, reciprocity has some disadvantages. For example, employees may begin to expect specific rewards for specific actions, and may feel that all tasks are now up for negotiation. Therefore, it can be an effective technique to use with a short time or seasonal employee whose commitment to organizational goals is not as solid as that of a permanent employee.
Reason. The third type of influence is reason. Reason centers around persuasion based on facts, needs, or personal values. “We want you to do this, because it will be good for business. Here is the rationale for this approach:” This technique is usually when both parties have mutual respect for each other and have developed a long standing relationship. According to Whetten and Cameron, supervisors who primarily use reason to influence others are rated as highly effective by their superiors and experience less on-the-job stress. The key is for the manager to have good leadership skills and to build a relationship with subordinates based on respect.
True leaders not only want their subordinates to succeed and prosper, but also to grow and develop. A good environment for such growth is a nurturing one where pettiness is eliminated and ideas are openly exchanged. This is an environment where reasoning leaders can turn energy into synergy.
So, how can you use power to influence people? How will you use it in the future? Just make sure that when you do use your power, use reason whenever possible to create synergy.
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