One Strategy Does Not Fit All: A Look at Impression Management

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26912109275_9b53648408_zImpression management describes the act of trying to control the first impression someone might have of an individual. It refers to shaping the perceptions others form about an individual’s behavior, motivation, morality, and other characteristics, like intelligence and future potential. Research on impression management has found significant differences between the impression management strategies used by women as compared to men. In fact, it has been revealed that women in Western context use less impression management strategies than men.

Some of the constructs closely related to impression management are self-monitoring, self-presentation and influence tactics (or impression management behaviors). There are two types of impression management strategies— soft impression management and hard impression management strategies. Hard impression management strategies include direct and aggressive behavior such as assertiveness, sanctions, upward appeal, blocking, self-promotion and intimidation. Soft impression management strategies include indirect and subtle behavior, such as ingratiation, coalition, exemplification and supplication. Combining certain behaviors can change the outcome of an individual’s impression management.Current Issue Cover

In identifying soft and hard impression management, researchers have been able to identify how different individuals from different backgrounds employ impression management. Indians avoid hard impression management strategies, in contrast with Dutch and Americans. Assertive and task-oriented behaviors were perceived as more effective by American and Swiss managers, and less effective by Chinese managers. As a result, it appears that hard impression management strategies are perceived as more effective by low power distance cultures as compared to high power distance cultures.

In addition to having a cultural impact, this comparison of impression management strategies also impacts gender. Indian women displaying authoritarian behaviors face perceptions of lesser effectiveness than their male counterparts. They may use charm, appearance, ingratiation and compliments as impression management strategies, which are soft impression management strategies. Women are perceived as more effective when displaying behaviors which are considered appropriate based on gender stereotypes. This may explain why Indian women tend to choose soft impression management strategies over hard impression management strategies.

This article shows that specific impression management strategies cannot be used with similar results across different contexts. Therefore, individuals need to be aware of the best impression management strategies specific to his or her situation.

The abstract for the article:

This article attempts to understand the impression management strategies used by women in Indian organizations. The extant research on gender differences in impression management, primarily conducted in Western cultures, has been inconclusive. This may be a result of attempting to generalize across cultures and/or the lack of research on moderating variables in the choice of impression management strategies by women. India provides an interesting context with high power distance culture, low social status of women as well as an emerging women’s movement.

Click here to read A Conceptual Framework for Understanding the Impression Management Strategies Used by Women in Indian Organizations for free from the South Asian Journal of Human Resources Management.

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*Image attributed to ITU Pictures (CC)

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