What is Impression Management?

Dec 22 2023 | Insights
A man stood outside on the sidewalk in a navy suit with his phone in his hand, smiling.

Impression management theory was coined by sociologist Erving Goffman in his 1959 book "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life." It refers to the process by which an individual can control or influence another’s impression of them by a series of conscious or unconscious strategies.

Goffman’s theory introduced the concepts of ‘Front Stage’ and ‘Back Stage’. Your Front Stage represents your public self who carefully curates’ appearances, behaviors and communications to align with societal expectations. Your Back Stage is your relaxed self who doesn’t feel the need for impression management.

In life, every individual must practice some level of impression management, whether this be with family and friends or in a corporate setting. Some reasons for this include the pursuit of social acceptance, attainment of professional success, the establishment of meaningful relationship building and for one’s own self esteem.

Impression management examples

  • Social Media: The manner in which we portray ourselves on social media often involves the application of various filters – both in a literal and figurative sense. It’s tempting to fall into the trap of believing your life is lacking because of the seemingly flawless experiences presented by those you follow or subscribe to. Remember that everyone is impression managing on social media. In reality, no one’s life is as unblemished as it seems on these online platforms.

  • Appearance: Even before we leave the house, we are impression managing. Brushing teeth, applying makeup, styling hair, ironing clothes – all of these cares we take towards our appearance are an effort to create a specific impression.

  • Nonverbal cues: The way we manage our facial expressions, body language and gestures will change depending on the context of our interactions. For example, you’re unlikely to slouch in an important meeting with stakeholders, however, at home with your family, there is understandably no expectation to act professional and polished.

  • Verbal communication: Choosing words carefully, emphasizing certain aspects of our personality or achievements or downplaying negative information are all ways to verbally manage impressions. These techniques will play a part in your very first career interview and all the way to the top.

Often, we are not aware of the extent to which we engage in impression management. Strategically managing people’s perceptions can serve you well in many facets of life but it’s important to recognize when the pursuit of a particular image might be going too far. Always endeavor to remain authentic to yourself.

What are some impression management strategies and techniques for the workplace?

Impression management is a crucial aspect of building positive professional relationships in the workplace. There are simple techniques like appearing presentable and exhibiting friendly and inviting body language, and there are more complex strategies that will set you apart from others. Here are a few:

  • Competence

  • Reliability

  • Collaboration

  • Attitude

  • Adaptability

  1. Competence in your role is key, particularly in a high-level position like COO or CMO. We believe there’s never a good time to stop expanding your skill repertoire. At every stage in your career, you can positively manage impressions by showing a willingness to learn and develop and proactively seeking out new challenges and responsibilities.

  2. Reliability is a trait you should always strive for at any point in your career. Being reliable expresses to those around you that you can be trusted, which is especially crucial in an employee/leader relationship. Meeting deadlines, following through on tasks and commitments and generally being dependable sets a precedent for your business.

  3. Collaboration amongst teams should always be encouraged within your business. And though you may be the leader, there are plenty of opportunities to garner positive impressions from your employees through teamwork and collaboration. Endeavor to stay in the loop regarding the general running of your business. This can be done by organizing team-building activities and by offering your assistance to colleagues where needed.

  4. Attitude is one of the first things people will notice about you, so making a good first impression really counts. In meetings or presentations, focus on maintaining an optimistic demeanor and show enthusiasm in your work and your organization.

  5. Adaptability means being proactive and ready to deal with any curveball that comes your way. Being open to change communicates to your team that you’re a confident and adept leader, the perfect person to facilitate growth and development. Even when faced with challenges, a good leader will show resilience.

By incorporating these strategies into your professional interactions, you can effectively manage impressions and contribute to a positive and influential presence in the workplace. EZRA leadership coaching recognizes the importance of impression management and advocates for self-development in this area, empowering you to become your best possible version of a leader.

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