Underestimating Our Influence Over Others at Work

Bohns, V. K. & Flynn, F. J. (2013). Underestimating our influence over others at work. Research in Organizational Behavior, 33, 97-112.

Posted: 17 Oct 2013 Last revised: 2 Feb 2016

Vanessa K. Bohns

Cornell University

Francis J. Flynn

Columbia University - Columbia Business School

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

Employees at all organizational levels have influence over their subordinates, their colleagues, and even their bosses. But are they aware of this influence? We present evidence suggesting that employees are constrained by cognitive biases that lead them to underestimate their influence over others in the workplace. As a result of this underestimation of influence, employees may be reluctant to spearhead organizational change, discount their own role in subordinates’ performance failures, and fail to speak up in the face of wrongdoing. In addition to reviewing evidence for this bias, we propose five moderators that, when present, may reverse or attenuate the underestimation effect (namely, comparative judgments, the objectification or dehumanization of an influence target, the actual degree of influence any one influencer has, the means of influence, and culture). Finally, we offer some practical solutions to help employees more fully recognize their influence over other members of the organization.

Suggested Citation

Bohns, Vanessa K. and Flynn, Francis J., Underestimating Our Influence Over Others at Work (2013). Bohns, V. K. & Flynn, F. J. (2013). Underestimating our influence over others at work. Research in Organizational Behavior, 33, 97-112.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2340820

Vanessa K. Bohns (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

394 Ives Faculty Bldg
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Francis J. Flynn

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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