So, what tactics do people generally use at work and which tactics do generally prefer to see used on them at work and what tactics generally lead to commitment, compliance and conflict?

What tactics do people generally use

Prof. Gary Yukl from the University of Albany has studied influence tactics extensively over the last 20 years. He developed a questionnaire called the Influence Behaviour Questionnaire (IBQ).

The surveys given to employees who are asked to rate how often their supervisor uses one of nine influence tactics. Yukl’s IBQ asks about both hard and soft tactics that we discussed earlier.

In one particular study using IBQ, Yukl and Bruce Tracy of Cornell University asked managers to distribute surveys to their employees, their peers and their supervisor. Everyone who received the survey rated the managers on influence attempts and the effectiveness of those efforts.

Over a thousand people filled out surveys for the 128 managers who were participating. What did the results indicate? First Yukl and Tracy found that small differences existed in the kinds of tactics people used depending on whether they were trying to influence a subordinate, a peer or supervisor.

Rational persuasion and coalition tactics

Among other things the managers in the study used rational persuasion more often with their bosses than with their subordinates and the coalition tactic less often with their subordinates than with anyone else.

These results captured the power dynamics in most work organisations. Managers don’t often need to develop strong arguments or coalitions to get their employees to do the work they’re supposed to do. That doesn’t mean that managers shouldn’t. It just means that they tend to use rational persuasion less often with their subordinates than they do with peers or bosses.

The second finding from the Yukl and Tracy study is that of all these nine tactics to came out consistently and positively related to the outcome of commitment. These were soft tactics of rational persuasion and inspirational appeal. Let’s talk in more detail about each and bring in some additional research to help you become more effective at using them.

Rational persuasion is about putting forward ideas

First let’s talk about rational persuasion. Ultimately rational persuasion is about putting forward ideas for why a particular article of action is a good one and should be the way that people behave in the future.

When you tell someone to do something because you said so, you’re not using rational persuasion. When you give someone three reasons why they should do something, that’s when you’re putting this tactic to good use.

There’s additional research indicating the usefulness of this particular tactic. A 2003 analysis published in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour found that rationality as a general tactic has the strongest positive effect on a variety of work on outcomes.

In short, it is a good first go to tactic for getting commitment from people you’re trying to influence at work. And, in my own life I seen this happen and I’ve seen it work, both at work and at home.

The bad side of  pressure tactics

When trying to convince my colleagues about a curriculum change which I’ve done a couple times now mix success. In one effort I was hurried and I remember distinctly that I just wanted to get done so I resorted to a hard tactic. I used pressure.

These were not my exact words but the gist of what I said in a meeting was “Look people, I didn’t want to do this. Can you just approve it so we can get done?!”.  Now let’s just say that it didn’t go over well and we ended up discussing and discussing the ideas involved in this particular curriculum change for what seemed like forever.

The next time I was involved in a change like that I prepared, I prepared more beforehand by thinking of a list of reasons I thought the change is appropriate for our department, my colleagues and for our students.

Using rational persuasion

As I presented to my peers I noted these points, I gave the list of reasons I also listened carefully to their concerns acknowledging them and analysing how they fit into what I already learned. That discussion was shorter than my previous attempt and boy did it go better, the curriculum was approved.

In the end both of these curriculum changes were approved. So they both worked, but the more successful the two was definitely when I saw to use soft tactic rational persuasion rather than the hard tactics of pressure eventually.

In the end took less time to use rational persuasion. Why? Well, with a little bit investment up front, with a little bit of work the conversation that we had was more productive. So when I shifted from hard tactic to soft the process was smooth.