Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Subordinate Reactions to the Use of Impression Management Tactics and Feedback by the Supervisor

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Subordinate Reactions to the Use of Impression Management Tactics and Feedback by the Supervisor

Article excerpt

It is commonly accepted that individuals in organizations use impression management tactics to control the information available to others about themselves in order to control the image presented. In recent years, more and more research attention has been placed on how (i.e., what tactics are used) individuals can manage or manipulate the impressions others hold of them (Kumar and Beyerlein, 1991; Schriesheim and Hinkin, 1990; Yukl and Falbe, 1990). Since the landmark work of Kipnis, Schmidt, and Wilkinson (1980), impression management research generally has focused on how a subordinate can manage the impressions of the boss (e.g., Ansari and Kapoor, 1987; Ashford and Northcraft, 1992; Kipnis and Schmidt, 1988; Wayne and Ferris, 1990; Wayne and Kacmar, 1991). Far less research has examined tactics that supervisors use to manage their subordinates' impressions (e.g., Hinkin and Schriesheim, 1990; Kipnis et al., 1980).

This study seeks to extend impression management research by focusing on impression management tactics used by supervisors when dealing with subordinates. Reversing the focus in impression management research has become even more critical with the introduction of 360 degree performance appraisal systems. That is, managers can use impression management tactics to help insure that their subordinates view them as competent and proficient in their jobs in order to guarantee strong, positive subordinate evaluations (Yukl and Falbe, 1990). Further, when managers have the respect and admiration of their subordinates, they enjoy more degrees of freedom when attempting to get subordinates to perform needed tasks (Podsakoff and Schriesheim, 1985; Witt, 1995; Yukl, 1989). For example, if a manager needs a subordinate to move up a deadline, he or she could request it as a personal favor, but only if the subordinate holds a positive impression of the supervisor.

In addition to examining impression management tactics used by supervisors to influence the opinions their subordinates have of them, this study attempts to distinguish and independently examine feedback provided by a superior to a subordinate. Frequently, descriptions of impression management tactics that are successfully employed by supervisors to influence the impressions subordinates hold of them clearly resemble definitions of feedback (Witt, 1995). For example, Wortman and Linsenmeier (1977) indicated that other-enhancements were most frequently used by superiors to influence subordinates' impressions of them and defined this tactic as expressions of a favorable evaluation of a target person. This definition could easily be used to describe the concept of positive feedback. This speaks for the need to logically differentiate these two constructs.

Even though impression management and feedback seem logically related, with few exceptions (Ashford and Northcraft, 1992), virtually no past research has focused on the two concepts together. Therefore, in order to demonstrate the logic for the hypotheses developed and tested in this study, a brief explanation and linking of these variables is necessary. The following sections review the literature in the areas of impression management and feedback and highlight the connections we see between these concepts.

Impression Management

Impression management (IM) has been defined as an attempt by individuals to control the image they project in social interactions (Schlenker, 1980). The goal of IM is to manage the impressions of specific targets by manipulating the information available to them on which their impressions are based (Schneider, 1981). The influence process can be accomplished in a variety of ways such as the impression manager highlighting his or her positive qualities (i.e., self-promotion) or offering oneself as a role model (i.e., exemplification). Actions such as these have been referred to as IM tactics.

IM tactics, because they are indirect, may provide a subtle means for managers to maintain and increase the support and respect of their employees without obviously appearing to do so (Ambrose and Harland, 1995). …

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