Becoming a Better Influencer (Part II): The Least Effective Influence Tactics

Nov 21, 2011
6 Min Read

Some influence tactics work better than others in general and some work better than others depending on the situation. In a previous article, I covered the most effective influence tactics. Those are good, they work well, and people respond to them positively. Equally as important is to know the less effective influence tactics that exist, if we might be needlessly using them, and consider if they may be effective depending on the situation. In many cases, stating directly what you want someone to do and why is a simple enough and reasonable course of action. But at other times, you want to do things a little bit differently. Of course, you don't want to rely on any of these on a regular basis, but when you are in a pinch, consider your other options. Also ask yourself, are you using or overusing these less-than-ideal influence tactics?

Exchange Offer – bargaining for exchange is similar to the highly-effective tactic of collaboration but slightly more explicit and more driven by one side than the other. It is giving something of value in return for something that you want. It is best used in an equal power relationship. Note that this will not work well on your boss. To be a little more subtle, you might give something of value only. Eventually, the desire for reciprocation will occur.

Ingratiation – also known as sucking up or brown-nosing. While it is popular to portray ingratiation as a tactic one uses on their boss, it is interesting that it doesn't usually work well in that particular situation. It can be quite effective on your co-workers, peers, and subordinates though.

Personal Appeal – friends help out friends. We like to do favors for others. It makes us feel good and important and needed. It builds and strengthens relationships. Those with many and deep relationships with others have a wide circle of influence. You meet someone, you connect with them, you find common ground and build rapport, and you then begin a relationship that is equal in give-and-take, preferably heavier on the give side. This is a long-term influence strategy... and it almost goes without saying that influence is a nice side effect of this process, rather than a means to an end.

Coercion/Pressure – we like to make our own choices. To force or pressure someone to act in a certain way undermines trust and causes resentment and various other negative emotions in people. If you can avoid eliciting negative emotions, it is always best to do so. Plus, those with a stubborn streak will take any opportunity to rebel. If coercion or pressure must be used, however, it is best to use a softer form (i.e., persistence) rather than the strong variation (i.e., threats). The more trust there is within a relationship, the more room you have to use this tactic.

Coalition – building an alliance of supporters can help you influence others. Building a coalition can be effective if you also choose to use rational persuasion and are directing your influence upward and need to prove feasibility. It can also be effective if you need to influence a large amount of people individually and you want to use personal appeal of the coalition. However, it can be seen as overbearing otherwise.

Power/Authority – using your positional power and formal authority to get things done. If you are in a designated leadership role, this tactic is at use implicitly most of the time. Thus, to use it explicitly is often overkill. If you find yourself tempted to use this tactic, it might be a good idea to start asking some tough questions instead.

Legitimating – similar to using power/authority, but without explicitly having any obvious power/authority. You demonstrate that the request you have is a legitimate one and that you have a reasonable authority to do so. This wouldn't be necessary for downward influence so the most common use would be lateral influence.

Though these are considered the less effective influence tactics, they can (and should) still be used. Sparingly. Next time you are in a situation where you feel helpless and as if things are out of your control, revisit this list. Is there something else you can do?

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