How Managers Influence Subordinates: An Empirical Study of Downward Influence Tactics

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Leadership and Organizational Development Journal






An empirical study of managerial influence tactics is described using a structured interview process. Two hundred and fifty‐seven usable narrative accounts of downward influence attempts were obtained using this approach. Respondents also reported the nature of the influence attempt, the reasons for success or failure, whether other people were used, and the long‐term consequences of the influence attempt. These categories derived, described successful and unsuccessful attempts by a wide variety of managers in both private and public sector organisations, large and small. Influence tactics were organised into 17 categories by a systematic and well‐established process. One way chi‐square tests were used to analyse categorised responses. Generally it was found that influence tactic success was more likely when associated with the initiation of new tasks or goals and more likely to fail when trying to eliminate subordinate violation of rules, procedures, or policies. There was a trend for more threatening tactics to be more closely associated with unsuccessful than successful influence attempts. The data suggest that short‐term influence tactic success may be obscured in the research by the use of multiple tactics and by long‐term relationships and that unsuccessful influence attempts may result in the deterioration of interpersonal relationships.