Strategies of Upward Influence: Styles of Negotiating for Organizational Rewards and Resources

October 12, 2000

David A. Ralston

Simon Fraser University Vancouver (at Harbour Centre)

Summary by David A. Ralston

This presentation is based on a paper by David A. Ralston, University of Oklahoma, USA; Guenther Vollmer, Fachhochschule Ludwigsburg, Germany; Narasimhan Srinvasan, University of Connecticut, USA; Joel D. Nicholson, San Francisco State University, USA; Moureen Tang and Paulina Wan, Lingnan College, Hong Kong (S.A.R.)

Global business is growing faster today than at any point in time in the past. Specifically, one aspect of an international company's effectiveness is the quality of the work relationships between superiors and subordinates who come from different cultures. An important part of a superior's effectiveness is his/her ability to influence others in the organization, where influence may be defined as the informal process by which one person affects the behavior of another. Research has shown that subordinates, by effectively using their influence strategies, can secure desired outcomes and resources from their superiors. Therefore, the way in which managers use upward influence strategies with their superiors may be crucial to their personal success in the organization. Likewise, from the organizational point of view, being able to use influence appropriately may also contribute to the effectiveness of the company.

In this study, we examine two diverse cultures from Europe, Asia and North America. Our European representatives are Germany and the Netherlands; the Asian representatives are Hong Kong and India; and the American representatives are Mexico and the U.S. We focus on the tactics that these managers emphasize as their means to influence their superiors. Thus, the primary goal of this study is to identify culturally inherent differences in subordinates' choices of influence tactics, which in turn may contribute to our understanding of the relationships between superiors and subordinates from different cultures. To operationalize our plan, we will use as our measure the Strategies of Upward Influence instrument.

HYPOTHESES

Before developing our hypotheses for the six cultures, we will briefly discussion the dimensions of the instrument measure to help to clarify the intent of the hypotheses. The subjects' views on influence tactics were assessed using the 38 items of the Strategies of Upward Influence [SUI] instrument. The SUI is a cross-culturally developed measure of attitudes towards upward influence tactics. Subsequently we combined these 38 items to create the following Job Tactics dimensions: Good Soldier, Image Management, Information Control, and Strong-Arm Coercion.
Previous research using the SUI to study managers in Hong Kong and the U.S. showed that the U.S. managers scored higher on the dimensions of Good Soldier and Image Management. The Hong Kong managers scored higher on Information Control and Strong-Arm Coercion (Ralston, 1995). Thus, based on this sampling of these managers, we will assume that differences in preferences of influence style exist between Eastern and Western culture managers. Also, no two cultures in this study are in the same Ronen and Shenkar (1985) country cluster, and no consistent relationship exists acorss any of these cultures on the Hofstede and Bond (1988) dimensions. Hence, to develop our exploratory hypotheses, we will assume that there are significant differences among all cultures in this study for the dimensions on which differences were found by this previous research. Thus, extrapolating from the work of Ronen and Shenkar (1985), Hofstede and Bond (1988), and Ralston (1994), we have developed the following hypotheses:

H1:Managers in the U.S. will score significantly higher on the Good Soldier tactic than the Dutch managers, while Dutch managers will score significantly higher than German managers, German managers will score significantly higher than Indian managers, Indian managers will score significantly higher than Hong Kong Chinese managers, and Hong Kong managers will score significantly higher than Mexican managers.H2:Managers in the U.S. will score significantly higher on the Image Management tactic than the Dutch managers, while Dutch managers will score significantly higher than German managers, German managers will score significantly higher than Indian managers, Indian managers will score significantly higher than Hong Kong Chinese managers, and Hong Kong managers will score significantly higher than Mexican managers.H3:Managers in the U.S. will score significantly lower on the Information Control tactic than the Dutch managers, while Dutch managers will score significantly lower than German managers, German managers will score significantly lower than Indian managers, Indian managers will score significantly lower than Hong Kong Chinese managers, and Hong Kong managers will score significantly lower than Mexican managers.H4:Managers in the U.S. will score significantly lower on the Strong-Arm Coercion tactic than the Dutch managers, while Dutch managers will score significantly lower than German managers, German managers will score significantly lower than Indian managers, Indian managers will score significantly lower than Hong Kong Chinese managers, and Hong Kong managers will score significantly lower than Mexican managers.

METHOD

Subjects

The 611 subjects in this study were managers/professionals from Germany (n=101), Hong Kong (n=117), India (n=66), Mexico (n=115), the Netherlands (n=101), and the United States (n=111). The mean ages of the subjects from these six cultures ranged from 37.5 to 41.0 years of age, and the years worked ranged from 12.0 to 16.1 years

Instrument

For the Strategies of Upward Influence [SUI] measure, as previously described, the higher the item score is, the greater is the perceived acceptability (ethicality) of that type of behavior. The instructions told subjects that there were no right or wrong answers, and that it was their perceptions that were important.

Analysis
The first step of the analysis was to perform a one-way multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA). The six cultures were our predictor variable. The Job Tactics dimensions were the dependent variables. Five demographic variables (age, gender, marital status, position level, and organizational size) were entered as covariates. Next, if the MANCOVA was significant, univariate analyses for the dependent measure dimensions were conducted. The univariate analyses were ANCOVAs, using as covariates only the demographics identified in the MANCOVA as making a significant contribution to the model. If no covariate was significant, the analyses were run as ANOVAs. Finally, for the univariate analyses found to be significant, Duncan multiple comparison tests were conducted to identify group differences across the various cultures.

RESULTS

The MANCOVA (Wilks' lambda) was significant ((=.185, df=5,3,606, p<.001). None of the covariates were significant. Therefore, ANOVAs were calculated for each of the four SUI dimensions. The ANOVA results show that all univariate analyses were significant. Thus, Duncan multiple comparison tests were run for these dimensions. The significant differences found with the Duncan Multiple Comparison Tests are reported in Table 1 and elaborated on in the subsequent section.