Imagine your favorite sports team and picture someone you’ve never met wearing that team’s cap or jersey. What you think about that person?

Starting off with a trust deficit that may make it hard to influence

Any influence agent who wishes to influence other people can work to correct misperceptions that occur as a result of facial features or other factors outside the agents control. For example, imagine the day you start a new job, your boss comes up and says: “You look a lot like my ex-husband!”

That really bothers me. For reasons that have nothing to do with you, you’re starting off in a hole or, to use a budgeting analogy, you’re starting off with a trust deficit that may make it hard to influence. Your best bet is to develop trust by remembering the three C’s.

Work hard to build knowledge and be competent in your work, look after your bosses interests and be caring, and demonstrate concern for fairness, being consistent in how you make decisions.

If you pursue this vigorously you can increase your trustworthiness and the chance that your boss will trust you and maybe give your promotion in the future. In other words by building your trustworthiness you create greater opportunity to wield influence successfully in your workplace.

The mere label of we’re on the same team can influence judgments

So far, in previous articles, we discussed how looks and behavior can influence how you are perceived, including whether people will trust you. But I’ve left out an important characteristic: imagine your favorite sports team and picture someone you’ve never met wearing that team’s cap or jersey. What you think about that person?

Probably a pretty nice person: smart, sociable, certainly has good judgment. It’s funny how the mere label of we’re on the same team can influence judgments. There is a long history of research in social psychology about the powerful effect that being placed on the same team can have on us.

One of the most famous of these experiments will sound like it came straight out of William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord of the flies. Muzafer Sharif when he was on faculty at the University of Oklahoma took 22 boys, age 11 and 12, to a summer camp at Robber’s Cave State Park in Oklahoma.

The boys were split into two camps: The Rattlers and The Eagles and over two weeks went through three phases of an experiment. In the first phase of the experiment lasting just under a week the teams worked independently and the relationship among the boys was developed and studied.

In the second phase the groups were introduced to each other and asked to compete in a series of contests that included baseball, tug-of-war and touch football. In the third phase the groups were brought together and given tasks that they had to collaborate on to achieve. What happened?

The power of group identification

Just as in Lord of the flies, things got a little crazy in the second phase, a variety of conflicts emerged between the two groups. At one point the Eagles stole and burned the Rattlers flag in each team rated the others cabins messing up beds, throwing around personal items and even cutting canoes adrift.

As relationships became even more tense the groups stop wanting to have anything to do with each other and they would yell and curse at the others whenever they were in sight
the experimenters reports indicate that on multiple occasions the boys had to be separated from each other, including food fight were rolls and mashed potatoes became weapons.

After the contests were over the boys were asked to rate characteristics of the members of each group. They rated members of their own group favorably, were brave and friendly, and the other group well those members were rated unfavorably, they’re sneaky and stinkers.

Fortunately the third phase of Sharif’s experiments show that people can overcome intergroup hostility and can cooperate with so-called outsiders, but let’s focus for a minute on the power of group identification.

In the Robber’s Cave experiment there was a prolonged process in which groups formed got to know each other and then competed with another similarly cohesive group. This situation does happen particularly in sports but it happens less often when people working together in the same organization or going to classes in the same school.