Office politics #2

HOW TO GAIN INFLUENCE

It's been another frustrating day. Your boss seems to be completely out of touch with what's going on in the team. She must be, otherwise she wouldn't behave the way she does. Well, she certainly stirred up a hornet's nest this time. You wouldn't mind so much, but you've been trying to tell her all along that she's wrong on this one. Still, it's not the first time, and it certainly won't be the last. Perhaps if she didn't have that listening problem...! Or is it you that has a problem in getting your point across?

Influence what you can...

Positive, proactive people focus on areas in which they can have impact. By contrast, negative, reactive people spend a lot of time worrying and whingeing about things they can't do anything about. Or at least, that's the way it appears to them. But are they really powerless? There are a lot of things in this world that you can influence, it's really a question of understanding what they are, being clear about your priorities and letting go of the things you can't change. Make a list of all your frustrations - at work and at home. Then go through this list thinking about how much control you have. Is there anything you can do to alter the situation for the better? Really challenge yourself. Many people surprise themselves when they do this exercise, because they start to realise that they could have more impact than they ever thought possible. It's just a question of understanding how.

Know who to influence...

So, you need to make something happen, get somebody to change their mind or convey an important point. Are you sure the person you've targeted is the one who can actually make the difference? If it's a question of referring something up the line, office politics dictate that it's wisest first to go to your immediate boss, rather than over their head. But remember, if they have to push it further up the line, you have two challenges: you'll need to convince them first, and give them the ammunition and the confidence they need to take your cause to their boss.

And how to influence them...

If you want to make people listen, you have to know what motivates them. Be aware of your audience and how they like to operate. If you're dealing with someone who is very thorough, does a lot of analysis and doesn't feel comfortable without all the facts and figures immediately to hand, you'll have to do your homework and construct a strong, logical case. If, on the other hand, they're fast, decisive and very focused on goals, your argument will be to be concise, positive and couched in terms of what can be achieved. It's not just a question of style, however. The content of your argument is equally important. Why should they do what you want them to do? Really try to get inside the head of the person you want to influence. How will they react to the various messages and demands you are about to communicate to them? What's positive and should be emphasised? What aren't they going to like? Is there anything you can do or say to minimise the downside? And don't forget to think through what's in it for them. People react far better if they stand to gain something - no matter how small! Above all, don't just wade in. It's really important to think it through - even if it's just for a few minutes. Follow this advice and you're likely to become the sort of person who really has impact.

John Nicholson and Jane Clarke are directors of Nicholson McBride, the business psychology consultancy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive - West London - £35,000

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A luxury fashion retailer based in W...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer / Front-End Designer - City of London

£27000 - £33000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End Devel...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Junior PHP Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable