How to influence without authority at work: 7 tactics for success

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that was important to you, and yet you had limited ability to control the outcome?

You need to learn how to influence without authority!

Here are just a few examples that highlight the importance of influencing with authority:

  1. You want the opportunity to be team leader on a prestigious new project but it’s your manager’s choice to allocate the role.
  2. You need help from a colleague in a different department to finish a critical piece of work on time.
  3. You have a strong preference regarding a new piece of software but it’s a team decision.

In an increasingly matrixed and ambiguous world we all face dwindling sources of formal authority and a growing need to influence without authority at work.

How to influence without authority at work

Let’s first look at the different influencing styles (or tactics) that can be applied when you have no authority. Then we’ll look at how to develop an influencing strategy.

1. Appeal to their self-interest

Help the person you’re influencing to see how your proposal meets their immediate needs.

What this looks like:

  • State the facts
  • Ask them their views
  • Explain how their concerns can be met
  • Outline how your solution meets their immediate needs

Given everything we’ve discussed I recommend we go with ‘A’ because it’s within your budget and clearly delivers the outcomes that you require.

2. Ask leading questions

Ask questions that lead the person towards your desired solution (make sure you know the answers to the questions before you ask them!).

What this looks like:

Have you ever had Mexican food for lunch? What’s your lunch budget? Why don’t we go to El Ranchero?

3. Tap into their values and ideals

Inspire the person you’re influencing with an appeal to their values and ideals.

What this looks like:

  • Describe the result in a way that aligns with their values and ideals
  • Use vivid, engaging positive language
  • Be enthusiastic

If we go down this path, it will continue our journey towards equality in the workplace and a better place to work for us all. I know this is something we all passionately want to achieve.

4. Make them feel good

Put the person in a good mood and they’re more likely to give you what you want.

What this looks like:

  • Describe their role in a positive manner
  • Describe the impact they can make
  • Present the requirements in a positive light

Your role in this project is integral to it’s success. You bring the expertise we need, and you know the team better than anyone. You’d be the ideal person to do this, please work with us on this.

5. Do a deal

You may have no authority, but you can always give and take. Explore what the person you’re influencing wants and do a deal.

What this looks like:

  • Summarize the task that needs their attention
  • Offer something in return
  • Confirm that an exchange will take place

If I can get your help organizing the office party, I’ll let you choose the band.

6. Seek a favor

Sometimes, it’s easiest just to ask for a favor.

What this looks like:

  • Explain your situation
  • Describe the disastrous impact of the task not being completed
  • Describe how their help will have a positive impact

I’ve got a looming disaster on my hands. If I don’t get this report produced by 5.00pm the CEO is going to have my head. Could you cover this next meeting for me, so I have time to get the report done?

7. Highlight the popularity of your proposal

Describe how frequently your proposed approach is used by other people.

What this looks like:

  • Describe the situation
  • Explain how frequently your proposed solution is used
  • Make the recommendation

We’re planning an online store. 99% of online stores use PayPal. I propose that we use PayPal for our store.

Developing an influencing strategy

We’ve explored the tactics to consider when influencing without authority at work. (You should also review the six sources of power – you may have more power than you imagine!)

To be truly effective you need to apply your influencing tactics within an influencing strategy. An influencing strategy consists of:

  • Understanding the situation
  • Clarifying your objective
  • Reflecting on the person you’re influencing (including their social style)
  • Selecting the appropriate tactic

This helps to make sure you’re not just opting for your default influencing style every time (we all have our ‘go to’ influencing preferences, what’s yours?).

The situation: what are the factors that you need to consider? For example, a tight deadline and a small request makes seeking a favor more appropriate. A bigger more complex task, with a commitment over a longer period, might make tapping into their values more appropriate.

Objective: what is it that you want and how likely is it to align with the interests of the person you’re influencing? For example: if there’s a close fit to their interests, no need to do a deal, just appeal to their self-interest.

Person: what do you know about them and what has worked in the past? Remember, people make decisions for their reasons, not yours. Maybe you know they’re most likely to respond to making them feel good or asking for advice.

Tactic: Finally, select the appropriate tactic and how to apply the tactic. Consider your choice of words and how to craft the tactic for the best chance of success.

How to influence without authority in summary

There are 7 tactics to influence someone when you don’t have authority:

  1. Appeal to their self-interest
  2. Ask leading questions
  3. Tap into their values and ideals
  4. Make them feel good
  5. Do a deal
  6. Seek a favor
  7. Highlight the popularity of your proposal

Choose the right tactic by considering the situation, your objective and the person you’re influencing. Then craft the tactic using all this insight to give yourself the best chance of success.

Go forth and influence!