Eric Bloom’s Office Influence: Get What You Want, From the Mailroom to the Boardroom is the perfect book for anyone in the workforce, from an entry level job to the CEO, who wants to have more influence and overall say about their work. As Bloom states in the introduction, “Every interpersonal endeavor includes an aspect of influence. In negotiation, you’re influencing someone to move closer to your point of view. In change management, you’re influencing someone to do something differently. In conflict resolution, you’re influencing people or organizations to resolve their issues and get along. The list goes on and on.”
Bloom knows how important influence is, especially having the right kind of positive influence. He knows because he has spent years designing and teaching classes on various types of interpersonal communication, including negotiation, change management, conflict, leadership, difficult conversations, motivation, requesting approval, and delegation. For all of these activities to be effective, trusting relationships must be established with the individuals you are working with, and in these pages, Bloom will show you how that trust can be achieved so that people are willing to listen, respect, and when needed, follow you. One of my favorite statements Bloom makes is “Generally speaking, people are not against you; they are for themselves. Understand their reasoning and you can find strategies to gain their support.” In other words, place yourself in their shoes to understand where they’re coming from. Then you can win them over to find benefits for both of you.
Office Influence is divided into three sections: Key Influence Concepts, Influence Power Rating, and Using Influence to Your Advantage. Besides drawing on his personal research, observations, and experiences, Bloom also incorporates research from the giants of influence research: Robert B. Cialdini, Allan R. Cohen, and David L. Bradford. Cialdini, the author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, inspired Bloom to learn more about influence and eventually pursue his own influence-related research. He devotes one chapter to Cialdini’s six ways to influence others. He also includes and comments on one of the most important influence quotes ever written by Cohen and Bradford: “Influence is possible when you have what others want.” Bloom states that one of the biggest lessons he learned from Cohen and Bradford is that “influencing others is not about what I want or need; it is about identifying and providing what they want or need so they will follow my vision.”
Throughout the book, numerous examples are given of how you can have influence others. Some of these are simple, and some are less than stellar, such as one forms of location influence in which the boss purposely makes his chair taller than those of others or sits in front of a window, which causes the other person to look down to avoid the glare. This submissive body language can slightly change the person’s thought process and feeling of power in the situation. This may not be the most ethical way to gain influence but people have done it. Bloom has no problem with stating when certain types of influence are not ethical and should be avoided.
Another, more positive example, is starting your meetings on time. People will then be influenced to be on time because they will feel uncomfortable joining a meeting that has already begun. On-time meetings also influence people to deliver their work on time because you have a reputation for being timely, and it can make people more willing to attend the meeting because when you start on time, it’s more likely the meeting will end earlier.
Another positive form of influence is to pay your vendors quickly. The faster you pay them, the more likely they are to prioritize your work, which gives you an advantage over those who may not pay for thirty or sixty days.
One of the most important and fun aspects of the book is that Bloom provides exercises to determine your own Influence Power Rating (IPR). He explains that your IPR is “a calculation based on seventy-four personal and business-related attributes and their effect on your workplace influence, combined with your current situational knowledge of the topic being discussed and your relationship with the person (or people) you are trying to influence.” He then walks readers through calculating this, which will result in being able to see where you are influential and where you may want to work on your influence levels.
The third and final section, “Using Influence to Your Advantage,” gives instructions on how you can apply the various concepts, techniques, and tips discussed in Parts 1 and 2 to enhance your success in the workplace. Many of these are simple tactics you might never have considered but that can be very effective; for example, when someone introduces you at a meeting, you should stand where they stood so you are in a position of power. Another that I personally love is the power of remaining calm in times of conflict. Bloom states, “When discussions get heated, people naturally turn to the person who can show calming strength and conviction. If this person is you, when the negotiation becomes tense, you can be the voice of reason, civility, and professional decorum. When people turn to you, you can influence the players’ actions and the direction of the discussion, which, of course, is toward your interests.”
As I stated in the beginning, anyone in the workforce will find plenty of ammunition in this book to become a more influential player in their organization just by practicing the tips and techniques in these pages. His reinforcement of the need to use positive forms of influence and how you can do so will ultimately not only benefit you, but your coworkers and organization, creating win-win situations for everyone.