The Role of Social Influence in Organizational Change: Strategies for Effective Adaptation and Learning

Team IIBP Anveshan, Business Psychology, issue 43, Organizational Development, Training and Development, Volume 4

The process of social influence in organizations involves the demonstration of particular behavioral tactics and strategies by individuals to influence behavioral outcomes controlled by others in ways that maximize positive outcomes for the influencer and minimize negative outcomes. Social influence processes have a significant impact on organizational change. From an organizational development perspective, organizational change is “a set of

Behavioral science-based theories, values, strategies, and techniques aimed at the planned change of the organizational work setting for the purpose of enhancing individual development and improving organizational performance, through the alteration of organizational members’ on-the-job behaviors” (Porras & Robertson, 1992:723).

Social influence happens in organizations through social network linkages because they give workers the chance to learn about what other people are thinking, feeling, saying, and doing about organizational events (Ibarra & Andrews, 1993; Krackhardt & Brass, 1994). Through cohesiveness or structural equivalency, social influence can have a direct or indirect impact on a person’s belief system (Burt, 1987). When there is a direct link between employees, like a friendship or a relationship based on mutual counsel, cohesiveness results (Burt, 1987). Perceptions and opinions become more similar as a result of information exchanged in such direct partnerships. People seek out clues and interpretations from others when faced with ambiguity and uncertainty (Festinger, 1954). Alternatively, whether or not they are related

Individually, workers are considered structurally equivalent if they have the same relationships with the same group of individuals within the company (Lorrain & White, 1971). Structurally equivalent workers often regard one another as competitors at times, but also as equals or replacements for one another (Ho & Levesque, 2005). Because they have relationships with comparable people and are exposed to the same information, structural counterparts thus frequently take on similar attitudes or beliefs.

Employees, when found in uncertainty, such as during an organizational change, share and exchange resources which include access to information, previous experience with the subject of the change, training, or access to other forms of physical or financial support. These resources can be highly salient for adapting to the change in the organization and thriving in the workplace. It is imperative to understand that such individuals who have the information, opportunity, and skill set related to the change are likely to be influential, as they help minimize the cognitive dissonance and uncertainty that accompany a change request. Further, social information processing theory suggests that individual opinions about the merits of a particular change come from personal assessments of the change, as well as from evaluations and acceptance of the subjective reactions of coworkers.

Rice and Aydin (1991) discovered that: 1) social information processing influences respondent attitudes toward a new system over and above traditional sources (such as use of the system or occupational membership); 2) there was greater influence from relational and positional sources of information than from spatially proximal sources (i.e., friends and bosses rather than seat-mates); 3) the primary sources of social information are those with whom one communicates freely and one’s supervisor; and 4) weighting of others’ attitudes by how important the respondent rates the others’ opinion is necessary in several situations. Kipnis, Schmidt & Wilkinson (1980) identified an inventory. Kipnis, Schmidt, and Wilkinson (1980) identified an inventory of seven influence tactics, which was later modified to nine tactics by Yukl and colleagues. These tactics include rational persuasion, inspirational appeal, consultation, ingratiation, exchange, personal appeal, coalition, legitimating, and pressure (Yukl & Falbe, 1990).

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