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How to influence people who don't report to you.

How to influence people who don't report to you

What if you have a problem, but the solution is up to someone beyond your sphere of control? Try to persuade the person that what you want is in his or her best interest.

Since it's hard enough to get your own staff members to do what you ask, it may seem impossible to win compliance from those outside your control. Your employees are dependent on you and must consider your interests. Outsiders usually do whatever is in their best interest.

Without the authority to break through someone's resistance to your ideas, suggestions, and requests, you may feel that your hands are tied. "If only he worked for me" is a typical reaction in such a situation.

All supervisory development aims at strengthening your ability to control, but it won't teach you how to deal with and influence those who do not report to you. There are two major ways to exert such influence:

1. Persuade the individual that what you want done is in his or her best interest.

2. If that approach doesn't work, confront the individual and review the issues and consequences, face to face.

When you try persuasion, make sure you first identify the outsider's self-interest. People are more likely to do what you ask them to when they feel they have something to gain. Conversely, they will resist if they feel they have something to lose.

For example, a key member of MaryAnn's section is out on maternity leave, but she can't hire a temporary replacement-the laboratory manager insists the section handle the same amount of work with one less employee. Soon MaryAnn and her staff are exhausted. Here are some of the approaches she can take in appealing to the laboratory manager's self-interest:

* Find a common or even compassionate objective. Even the most hard-hearted individuals have soft spots. "I realize you haven't budgeted for a temporary replacement for Susan, but my staff is really hurting," MaryAnn might say. "Morale is really low, and the backbreaking, workload may even be affecting the health of one or two technologists."

* Do some stroking. Most people do not deliberately set out to upset others. They like to think of themselves as good-natured and tend to respond well to genuine strokes: "You have always been fair and quick to recognize my problems. I know you've been under pressure many times, yet I never felt that you passed it on to your staff."

* Emphasize the long-term benefits. While the requested action may not be in the individual's short-term self-interest, it could produce enduring benefits: "t know it will cost more money for a temporary replacment, but you will have the respect and loyalty of everybody in this department."

* Give full credit for a change in behavior. If the laboratory manager changes his mind, MaryAnn would be ill advised to return to her section and gloat about what she accomplished. Instead, she should tell her boss that she will make sure everyone knows about his generosity.

* Make it easy for the outsider to change. When someone takes a stand on an issue, it can be embarrassing to back down. The lab manager could be told: "I know there is no question that you acted responsibly and are rightfully concerned about the budget. But I feel everyone will fully appreciate why it makes sense to change your mind now, in view of our circumstances."

* Press the right buttons. The issues important to individual selfinterest vary widely from person to person. These concerns include friendship, prestige, security, recognition, and challenge.

* Note that "others do it." Try to generate normative changethat is, a behavioral change that brings someone more in line with "normal" behavior. "A neighboring laboratory approves temporary replacements when an employee is expected to be out for more than two to four weeks," MaryAnn could tell the laboratory manager.

* Point to precedent. You probably have seen this technique used successfully at home. "When Allison was on jury duty," MaryAnn may observe, "you let Louise hire a temporary replacement to handle the heavy workload."

When attempts to persuade fall, you may have to confront the other person. This shouldn't be worrisome; confrontation merely means a face-to-face meeting. Just place the facts on the table and emphasize the possible consequences.

Here's how MaryAnn might confront the laboratory manager: "In the first three weeks of Susan's maternity leave, our section has already encountered major workload difficulties--and she'll be out at least five more weeks. I know you're concerned about not exceeding the budget, but let me review some of the serious problems that may develop."

In describing the possible consequences, MaryAnn must be realistic, and she must address the issues of greatest concern to her boss. Areas of concern to any manager include:

* Loss of productivity. When workload increases, you would expect employees to work harder--and they do at first. But when the heavier workload persists, employees often reach a point where they feel tired and disgusted. They then ease off on their efforts.

* Increased error rate. Errors are anathema in a laboratory, yet it has been well established that when the workload remains heavy for a sustained period of time, the potential for errors increases alarmingly.

* Long-term alienation. When one feels that somebody has been unfair and inconsiderate, resentment Is a natural reaction. Unfortunately, the hard feelings tend to last long after the predisposing incident is forgotten.

* Displaced hostility. It is dangerous to act openly hostile to someone in a position to damage your career. But if the hostile feelings become bottled up inside, they must be vented eventually. Unfortunately, co-workers are a convenient outlet, and the laboratory can become a combat zone.

* Physical and mental illness. Problems on the job can lead to a wide assortment of physical and mental disorders, including ulcers, heart problems, and nervous conditions. The illnesses will compromise the productivity of employees and may lead to recurrent absences.

Although the techniques described in this article focus on influencing individuals outside your control, they work just as well on employees who report to you. It is much healthier to use influence rather than power to get things accomplished.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Roseman, Ed
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Jun 1, 1988
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