Career Advice

How to Increase Your Influence at Work and Manage Up

With many people spending the majority of each weekday at work, it’s no surprise that a great deal of time and energy is spent on trying to get ahead. However, such attempts can be frustrating when they don’t bring the desired outcome. Gaining respect and positive attention at work often begins with magnifying your influence. This is generally done in small steps as you make yourself and your work stand out from those around you. When learning how to increase your influence at work, receive that promotion, or have your new project idea approved, there a few tips that can help you gain success.

1. Set the stage

Increasing your influence in the workplace isn’t something that happens overnight. In fact, it can take months of hard work and careful planning. An important part of all that work is setting the stage for your success. This means that you’re priming your boss or manager to look at your work favorably long before you ever approach them with your ultimate goal. Setting the stage can include:

  • Doing something extra to make your work stand out. Submit your reports in a folder instead of just dropping off the paper.
  • Polishing your written and verbal communication. If you sound professional and well-educated, that is how your superiors will see you.
  • Maintaining an impeccable work record. Clock-in on time, avoid lengthy breaks, don’t abuse vacation or sick days, and always be an example of respect and inclusivity.

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2. Utilize non-verbal cues

This is a more subtle approach to increasing your influence and works well with setting the stage. As you interact with bosses and managers, remember that your words and behavior aren’t the only thing that attract attention. Non-verbal cues can include:

  • Good eye contact. When engaged in a conversation with another person, maintain good eye contact. Avoid looking away too often or staring someplace other than the person’s face. And most importantly, don’t look at your phone. Interacting with someone on the phone tells the person in front of you that you’re not very interested in what they have to say.
  • Confident handshake. A handshake shouldn’t be a display of dominance. Rather, it should be an indicator of your confidence and sincerity when you greet another person. Make the pressure firm enough that they know you’re invested but light enough that it isn’t an overt display of power.
  •  Be attentive – Be aware of the non-verbal cues of those you’re interacting with as well. Does the other person seem uncomfortable or anxious? Offer them something to drink or steer the conversation toward something they enjoy.

3. Learn how to capture your listener’s attention

In work settings, you’ll most likely do this by bringing up how your new project idea will achieve one of the company’s goals. Or you can discuss how financially profitable your venture will be. When working on how to increase your influence at work, remember that you have to first capture your audience if you want them to truly give you the attention you deserve. But be sure to:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Trying to discuss your company’s next multi-million-dollar deal in a crowded elevator probably isn’t the best idea. Wait until you’re in the right setting before engaging your boss.
  • Be aware of your audience. If you’re hoping to pitch the basics of your amazing idea to your boss as he’s rushing out the door for an appointment, you’re more than likely going to be rejected. Be observant and approach your listener only when it seems like a good time for them.
  • Be aware of your company’s larger goals. If you’re trying to pitch something that doesn’t line up with the company’s main focus, your idea will probably be dismissed. If your project isn’t directly related to the greater business plan, try showing how it will benefit the business and help it reach its goals in a more indirect way.

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 4. Keep your listener’s attention

Once you’ve got your listener hooked, it’s time to give them the details. Remember to follow the tip above about keeping good eye contact. You want your listener focused on you and ready to hear what you’re pitching. The best way to hold their attention is to give them brief and engaging tidbits about your overall goal. Avoid long descriptions and wordy sentences. Keep it concise so they don’t lose interest. Here are a few additional ways to hold their attention:

  • Pay attention to your listener’s level of engagement. Did they really tune-in when you started talking about your marketing idea? Did they seem to lose interest when you brought up the budget details? As mentioned in one of the tips above, pay attention to your listener’s non-verbal cues so you can talk about what interests them most.
  • Use visuals where appropriate. If you have a chart or diagram easily accessible on your phone, include them while you pitch your idea. Visual stimuli can stay in your listener’s mind even if they’ve forgotten all the details of your verbal explanation.
  • Bring in stories or anecdotes that will connect you with your listener. If your boss is a big car guy, try to include an entertaining connection to his hobby when pitching your idea. The key here is to keep it subtle, though. Too many references to his interests will make it sound like you’re trying too hard.

5. Leave them wanting more

A little mystery can go a long way, even at work. Just remember that the goal is to make them want to hear more, not frustrate them with your secrecy. For example, once you’ve given your listener the quick details of your proposal, tell them you’d love to discuss additional benefits to the company over lunch. Leave them wondering how else your plan can help the business achieve its goals and you’ll be another step closer to achieving yours as well. To increase the mystery while you’re also working on how to increase your influence at work, consider these suggestions:

  • Let them know you’ve got more information ready for them. Since you’re only giving your pitch at this point, let your boss know that you’re prepared to give them more information when you set up a more formal meeting. Try something like, “I have data to back up my idea and I would be happy to go over them with you when we have more time.”
  • Save a bit for later. They can know the basics of how your idea will help the company but save some of the benefits for your next meeting. You want to keep them engaged for as long as possible which means saving some of the best for a later time.
  • Indicate how your idea will help the company rise above its competitors. Every successful business will be keeping an eye on its close competition, and hearing that you’ve got a plan to give your company a boost is sure to catch your boss’s attention. Just make sure that you secure another meeting before you go over all the details.

6. Think ahead

Business decisions are rarely reached in a single meeting. After you’ve got the interest of your audience, ask them if they’d be ready to discuss the necessary budget next week. This gives your listeners time to process what you’ve said and begin to think through what comes next. By asking to discuss the next topic in a week, you’ve given them a deadline to work toward while also securing a future meeting. When it comes to increasing your influence at work, you’ve got to stay at least one step (and preferably more) ahead. Here a few forward-thinking topics to consider:

  • Your timeline. Your idea to boost your company’s financial gains can be amazing, but if it all has to be implemented before the next holiday season, you’ve got a serious timeline to work with. Think about how you can expedite the process to achieve your goals on time, but if your deadline isn’t realistic, it’s better to shift your timing than to rush something and have it fail.
  • Your budget. It won’t be enough to present only a bare-bones budget for your project, things often change as the process moves along. Anticipate such changes or setbacks by including a cushion in your budget. It will make your boss feel more comfortable if they know you’ve worked in some wiggle room.
  • Your resources. How many people will it take to implement your idea? Will you be able to use the employees the company already has or will you need to hire more? As a rule, the more efficient you can be with your company’s current resources, the more likely you are to have your idea approved.

When finding out how to increase your influence at work, there are many helpful steps you can take. However, by starting with the basic and easily implemented tips above, you’ll be on your way to making your professional goals a reality.

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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