Getting people on board: cultural values and influencing

    Business Spotlight 6/2021
    manipulation of consciousness
    © SvetaZi

    Strangely, people in leadership positions cannot actually do very much by themselves. They depend on the actions of others. To get the action required, they need to be able to to enlist sth.etw. einfordernenlist the cooperation and support of others — up, down and across their organization, within and outside it. And many of these other people cannot be instructed to do what the manager wants because they do not report to the manager. People with leadership responsibility therefore need to be able to influence others.

    But how exactly do people “do” this influencing? How do they transform the intention into actions and words? 

    Power distance and influencing

    In his pioneeringwegweisendpioneering research on influencing, management scholarWissenschaftler(in)scholar Gary Yukl and colleagues found that rational persuasion and consultation, or ingratiating appeal; ingratiatingfreundliches Ersuchen; schmeichlerischingratiating and inspirational appeals, were the approaches most frequently used by US managers. These could be described, in the first case, as cognitive approaches or, in the second case, as emotional-relational tactics. Yukl found that hierarchical or coercivezwingend; hier: Druck ausübendcoercive tactics — such as pressure or upwardhier: an eine höhere Ebeneupward appeals — were, unsurprisingly, not favoured by US managers. Power distance tends to be lower in US organizations.

    The picture changes, however, when man-agers to be exposed to sth.etw. ausgesetzt sein; hier: Kontakt zu etw. habenexposed to different societal values are investigated. This is especially evident in Yukl’s research into the influencing preferences of Chinese managers. They were found more often than US managers to favour the giving of gifts and to appeal to sb.sich an jmdn. wendenappealing to a higher authority as ways of to exert sth.etw. ausübenexerting influence. 

    The connection between giving presents and the Chinese emphasisBetonung, Akzentemphasis on relationship-building is obvious. So, too, is the connection between the tendency to seek the help of somebody more powerful and the widespread expectation and acceptance in Chinese society and organizations that power is distributed unequally. 

    The German emphasis is on being an authority rather than being in authority

    This relationship between power distance and influencing is evident in other research. A different study by Gary Yukl and colleagues found that managers from high power distance cultures tend not to favour influencing tactics of consultation and collaboration preferred by low power distance and individualist cultures.

    Perhaps surprisingly, managers from low power distance and individualist Germany and Britain prefer to influence in ways different from each other. In a famous study, management scholar Rosemary Stewart and colleagues found that German managers did not see their superior position as the source of their influence over others. Rather, it was the superior knowledge they brought to the task in handvorliegendin hand. The German emphasis, says the study, “was on being an authority rather than being in authority”. German managers tended to influence by convincing people on the basis of rational arguments and facts to get the job done. 

    More than  simply the task

    This task-oriented approach of the German managers differed from the persuasion orientation of the British managers. They tended to to emphasize sth.etw. betonen, den Akzent auf etw. legenemphasize the need to get others to “to buy into sth.von etw. überzeugt seinbuy into” their arguments by taking a more personal approach. This often to take account of sth.etw. berücksichtigentook account of the other person’s perspective and their psyche: what’s in it for them, not What's in it for...?Was hat ... davon?what’s in it for successful task completion. This approach, which takes account of who you are as a person rather than what you can contribute to the task, can be related to the very high degree of individualism in British culture. So, which approach should German readers buy into? Influencing across cultures may  mean more than simply emphasizing the task. Addressing power issues, the relationship and the individual may be the way to to get sb. on board (ifml.)hier: jmdn. für seine Sache gewinnenget people on board.

    Power distance

    Power distance is a dimension of variation in cultural preferences that describes the extent to which power is concentrated in the hands of the few (large/high power distance) as opposed to being shared with the many (small/low power distance). To what extent do those without power expect and accept that power is distributed unequally? Management in high power distance cultures may to feature sth.etw. aufweisenfeature steep hierarchies, centralized decision-making and top-downhierarchisch, von oben nach untentop-down interaction. In low power distance cultures, management may be characterized by flatter hierarchies and more participative and consultative interaction.

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