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Impression Management in Organizations: Definition, Techniques & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rob Wengrzyn

Rob has an MBA in management, a BS in marketing, and is a doctoral candidate in organizational theory and design.

Impression management within an organization is defined as deceptively manipulative behavior that occurs when a person controls a situation in a self-serving way. Explore the four types of impression management: sycophant, formal manipulator, direct liar, and goodie two-shoes, as well as the examples of each and the techniques they use. Updated: 09/02/2021

Influencing Perception

Take a moment to think about the following scenario: You are in a room that is new to you - let us say a living room. As you look around, you take in information about the room: the size, the shape, the furniture, lighting and anything else that goes along with a living room. Got that picture or image in your mind? Good.

Now, I want you to picture yourself being blindfolded and being walked into a different living room. This time, the person that is with you will only take off your blindfold for very short periods of time (maybe only a second or two). This person will also position your face in a specific direction so you will only be facing a portion of the room (once the blindfold is taken off). And again, your glimpse of the room will be short and at the direction of the person managing the blindfold.

This second scenario is a good example of what impression management is. When we talk about impression management we are talking about a person influencing another person's interpretation of a person, place or thing by controlling the information they receive. Much like the person in the example we spoke about was influencing what you saw in the room by manipulating the blindfold, that person was controlling the information you were getting and thus had an impact on your thoughts of what that room would look like.

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  • 0:05 Influencing Perception
  • 1:21 Example of Impression…
  • 2:00 Deceptive Impression…
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Example of Impression Management

Our example was a good one, but it will help to put this in more of a real-world example. John is hoping for a promotion. He has been working hard and believes he is the only person in the running for the opening. One day, he's eating lunch with Allen, the hiring manager for this new opening, and Allen tells John he is thinking about talking to Warren about applying for the opening. This does not make John happy, and he begins to tell Allen (who only knows a little about Warren) about the struggles Warren has had with his current position because it takes away from his home life, and he wants to spend more time with his three children. John is using impression management on Allen to give him a different (albeit potentially false) impression of Warren.

Deceptive Impression Management

Impression management can be either positive or deceptive (or we say negative). As one would think, positive impression management means you are 'talking someone up' to another person or giving that person only good information so they will think highly of another. When we take the negative side, we're talking about deceptive impression management. This is the ugly side of the issue where individuals control or only supply specific data in an effort to paint other individuals (John talking about Warren) in a poor light.

There are several categories of deceptive impression management. First, we have the sycophant. This is a person who does not provide honest feedback to their supervisor. In many ways, they tell their supervisor what they think they want to hear and in the end really end up talking behind their back. You see, impression management does not always have to be direct contact with an individual - like John speaking to Allen - saying specifically what they want the other person to hear. Rather, it can also be deceptive in nature by simply not telling a person what you believe and giving them a false sense of security or understanding.

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