How Questions Increase Influence

(Part 2 of 2 Parts)

Wendel, a long-time supervisor, disagreed with the company’s attendance policy and sometimes failed to enforce it.  When Wendel’s manager explained the reasons for the policy, Wendel’s typical response was, “Our policy is too harsh.  Good workers should not lose pay for an occasional lapse.”

Wendel’s manager retired and Sofia assumed his role.  Sofia quickly became aware of Wendel’s inconsistent enforcement.  However, rather than explaining the benefits of consistent enforcement, Sofia used questions to influence Wendel.

“Are you aware of our attendance policy?” Sofia asked.

“Yes, I am,” Wendel responded.

“Do you think you are consistently applying the policy?”

“Probably not.  People do not miss work on purpose.”

“Is your approach fair to other supervisors who are enforcing the policy?

“I’m not leading their departments.”

“Are you aware of the company’s legal jeopardy caused by your inconsistency?”

“Not really. The company can take care of itself.”

“Do you think legal action would have implications for you?”

Sofia started with a softball question allowing Wendel to confirm his knowledge of the policy.  Then she moved to hardball questions that implied more serious implications for the company and for Wendel.

Effective managers rely on both declarative statements and thoughtful questions in their influencing attempts.

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