The world of business is continuously improving, and organisations, as well as their leaders and managers, must work hard to succeed. Nowadays, there are many tactics to control people and information. Impression management is one of such processes, the essence of which is to influence human observations and opinions about other people, objects, or actions (Chaubey & Kandpal, 2017). It is also called as “self-presentation” because people must combine their public selves with true selves to be perceived the way they want (Kim & Yi, 2016). Human behaviours and emotions may be analysed in a variety of ways, and psychological research is an option. This critical writing aims at discussing impression management and its strategies through the prism of psychological research to clarify the influence of cultural differences. Effective impression management and attention to cultural values and interpersonal relationships determine the quality of business, regulate human behaviours, and enhance successful decision-making and problem-solving.
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Psychological Research Essence
There are many reasons for psychologists to join the field of business and develop their ideas about how to improve the current state of affairs and understand what improvements are available. The investigation by Bolino, Long and Turnley (2016) proves that first attempts of social psychologists to investigate human relationships in hiring processes and the working environment were made in the middle of the 20th century. Performance evaluations, staff activities, and decision-making are the elements of impression management, and organisational psychology turns out to be a field where these practices are studied. The psychological research into impression management and the influence of cultural differences will contain the discussion of the chosen concept, the identification of its major strategies, and the analysis of organisational and cultural aspects.
Impression Management Definition
Any modern business may be determined by a variety of factors, including the necessity to gain control over information and human actions. In the age of information and technological process, people have to work with multiple sources, spend much time analysing different ideas, and use the Internet to communicate and share files. Impression management is a method for individuals to follow and understand how “to control the impressions others form of them” (Leary & Kowalski, 1990, p. 34). Some authors define impression management as a process or an activity, and Bourdage, Roulin, and Levashina (2017) explain it as “behaviours an individual uses to influence the impression” (par. 1). Job interviews, workplace relationships, and sustainability performance are the main fields where impression management strategies are frequently applied (Bourdage et al., 2017; Diouf & Boiral, 2017; Krieg, Ma, & Robinson, 2018; Peck & Levashina, 2017). Psychological research proves that impression management is not a stable variable and depends on different determinants, either external or internal.
Using a common definition of impression management, two major elements may be identified – controlling impressions of other people and making impressions smart. The first issue represents a psychological reward, and the second task is characterised as a management perspective (Kim & Yi, 2016). Leary and Kowalski (1990) introduce two other components, calling them impression motivation (the desire to create expected impressions) and impression construction (a plan of actions). All these goals and characteristics cannot be ignored by impression managers. It is not only a chance to succeed in communication, find a good job, or choose a correct person but a great opportunity to demonstrate the best skills and enhance development. Candidates and organisations workers try to take the necessary steps, impress each other, and use the most effective facts, either consciously or unconsciously (Peck & Levashina, 2017). Therefore, psychological researchers examine various aspects of these activities and the ways of how they influence relationships between people with different social or cultural backgrounds.
Impression Management Strategies
Relying on their experiences, managers continue developing new management strategies to impress other people in the way they way or to clarify what another person uses to impress. Bourdage et al. (2017) differentiate impression management as honest that is usually more preferable and deceptive (or faking) that is less acceptable in job interviews or similar business talks. Trust is usually built on first impressions, and every person has to choose the necessary way and establish new relationships. There are five main strategies according to which impression can be managed, including “self-promotion, ingratiation, exemplification, intimidation and supplication” (Chaubey & Kandpal, 2017, p. 10). For example, intimidation includes the attempts of people to demonstrate their powers and skills as something dangerous or fearful. This tactic is used to make sure someone’s ideas are accepted by arousing fears and taking control of the results. Ingratiation is a method when a favour is done, or flattery is used to impress observers (Bolino et al., 2016). The user of this approach tries to find out what another person likes or wants to hear/see and takes the required steps.
Self-promotion is another way to succeed in impression management and demonstrate a high level of competency. According to Chaubey and Kandpal (2017), this method is used when immediate goals should be achieved like getting a new job or being appointed to a certain position. Exemplification is frequently used by managers to demonstrate their willingness to do more or better. They try to complete their work before the deadline or leave an office later to prove their dedication or increase their awareness of the chosen business (Krieg et al., 2018). Finally, supplication is a passive strategy when human weaknesses are revealed, and people try to introduce themselves as needy to receive help or recommendation or to avoid a new assignment (Chaubey & Kandpal, 2017). However, the decision to use this way of impressing people still rather provocative because it is hard to predict employees’ reactions and attitudes
Cultural Differences in Impression Management
Despite the development of multiple studies about impression management and its impact on business relationships, some limitations and concerns still exist. For example, Derous (2017) admits that cross-cultural impression management is a field that lacks consideration and research even if people understand the multiculturalism is evident. The concept of culture cannot be ignored because people’s preferences vary in their prosperities and provoke the establishment of hierarchies and distinctions in contexts (Shavitt & Cho, 2016). The process of globalisation opens new opportunities for people to find jobs in different parts of the world. At the same time, companies and their leaders are challenged by the necessity to investigate cross-cultural differences and interests of their potential colleagues. Fell, König, and Kammerhoff (2016) admit that impression management varies in cultures in terms of attitudes toward faking and the presentation of fake information in applications. Job interviews based on faking turn out to be less productive, with no positive outcomes being observed.
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Cultural intelligence influences the way of how people cooperate and communicate with each other. The study by Gupta, Singh, Jandhyala, and Bhatt (2013) signifies that self-monitoring determines cultural dimensions, which, in their turn, contribute to adjustment and performance. It was proved that people with similar socio-cultural backgrounds tend to develop similar impressions and achieve resonance in their cooperation in a short period, whilst intercultural communication is challenged by invisible difficulties and concerns (Yates, 2015). For example, Swiss and Canadian employees choose specific strategies to impress an employer (self-promoting vs modest manners) that may be interpreted differently in regard to employee’s gender (Mast, Frauendorfer, & Popovic, 2011). In many European counties, self-promotion among women is not always competent compared to the same strategy used by men. Therefore, Spong and Kamau (2012) recommend passing cultural adaptation first before applying to a job in a new country. Cross-cultural communication practices and decisions to be introduced to a leader increase the importance of the development of new impression management strategies.
In general, such factors as international trade relationships, globalisation, and industrialisation turn out to be the main contributors to impression management progress. People from different parts of the world try to find jobs in regard to their personal interests and abilities but not because of their geographical location. Today, it is normal to see a number of Asians working in the United States or devoted Americans helping the African population. As a result, cross-cultural communication and cooperation gain benefits and shows how wrong impressions may influence further working relationships. Impression management strategies such as exemplification, intimidation, ingratiation, self-promotion, or supplication are usually chosen on the basis of employees’ cultural background and their abilities to understand what standards are acceptable, and which emotions or skills should not be demonstrated.
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