!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Some Research on Upward Influence Tactics

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Some Research on Upward Influence Tactics

As noted in an earlier post, the Strategies of Upward Influence (SUI) instrument was introduced in a 1993 article published by David A.Ralston, et al., in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Management.1 The research in question
compares American and Hong Kong Chinese strategies for advancing in organisations. Evaluated are the likelihood of using a particular strategy, the perceived risk associated with each strategy, and the ethical appropriateness of the strategy. ... For example, the Hong Kong Chinese were more likely to use informal information networks. The Americans were more likely to employ more individual strategies, such as image management, in order to differentiate themselves from the competition in their organisation.
This article has been frequently cited by other researchers. A recent example — dating from March 2007 — is an article by Pol Hermann and James Werbel of Iowa State University.2
Drawing on person–environment fit and national identity theory, the article proposes that person–national culture fit is likely to influence the promotability of host-country nationals in multinational firms. Focusing on fit with upward influence tactics, it suggests that the parent company's national culture influences managerial expectations of host-country nationals in foreign subsidiaries. It argues that host-country managers who demonstrate upward influence tactics that are culturally appropriate to the parent company's national culture will be more promotable than those who do not. Higher-level supervisors were asked to assess the promotability of two direct subordinates, who were independently surveyed about the upward influence tactics they used. The study contrasted ingratiation, exchange of benefits and coalition, and directness influence tactics of host-country nationals in domestic Ecuadorian firms with American and German multinationals in Ecuador. Compatible with our hypotheses, data from a sample of 79 firms suggest that exchange of benefits and coalition are more likely to be associated with promotability in German than in domestic Ecuadorian firms. In addition, upward-appeal assertiveness is more likely to be associated with promotability in American than in domestic Ecuadorian firms.
The results reported by Hermann and Werbel indicate that national culture plays a role in how superiors respond to various upward influence tactics, a connection that other researchers, including Ralston and colleagues in their 1993 article, have also found. However, the literature on upward influence indicates that culture is by no means the only important variable. For instance, Ralston et al., report in a 2005 article that the life stage of the subordinate is also significant in determining the choice of tactics.3 Clearly, it is essential to understand both the factors underlying subordinates' choice of tactics and superiors' receptivity to various tactics before an organization undertakes to train its employees and managers on how to build healthy working relationships.

1 David A Ralston, David J Gustafson, Lisa Mainiero and Denis Umstot, "Strategies of Upward Influence: A Cross-National Comparison of Hong Kong and American Managers," Asia-Pacific Journal of Management, Vol. 10 (1993), pp. 157-175.

2 Pol Herrmann and James Werbel, "Promotability of Host-Country Nationals: A Cross-Cultural Study," British Journal of Management (OnlineEarly Articles, March 16, 2007).

3 David A. Ralston, Philip Hallinger, Carolyn P. Egri, and Subhatra Naothinsuhk, "The Effects of Culture and Life Stage on Workplace Strategies of Upward Influence: A Comparison of Thailand and the United States" (pdf), Journal of World Business, Vol. 40 (2005), pp. 321-337.