Your guilt-free guide to influencing co-workers

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Issue: Often, the key to succeeding in your job is persuading people to do what you want them to do, without resenting you for it.

Benefit: Using guilt, in a kind way, can place co-workers, managers and even your boss in your debt.

Action: Start looking for opportunities to "bank" guilt, so you can withdraw it when you need it most.

You don't read about it in management guides or career-help journals. But guilt is one of the most powerful motivators in the workplace.

While you don't want to overuse this delicate tool, it can work well in certain situations. Here's how to apply guilt, the guilt-free way:

1.  Extract payback. Say you've bent over backward for a manager. Maybe you've given her extra time to turn in time sheets or helped her figure out how to handle a difficult staff member. Now, you need this employee to help you.

Don't list all the favors you've extended. Instead, appeal to her sense of obligation, saying: "I've tried my hardest to be there for you, and now I need you to come through for me."

2. Anticipate and delight. Whenever an employee drops a hint, pick up on what he wants and give it to him. Saving him from having to ask you outright will make him indebted to you.

Say an employee mentions that he's having trouble figuring out which 401(k) funds to select. Offer to go over each fund's prospectus with him one afternoon. After that, he'll look for ways to repay you.

3. Take the hit. Shield a co-worker or a manager from a senior exec on the warpath. Deflecting or absorbing the blame for a minor mess-up entitles you to the co-worker's loyalty.

How to do it: Guide the senior exec to consider more important issues, or point out flaws in the process, and promise to fix them.

Warning: Protect the co-worker only if it won't tarnish your reputation. Let the co-worker know you saved his hide.

4. Set an example. If you make visible sacrifices for the organization, conscientious employees will feel guilty unless they share the pain. If they have a shred of loyalty, you won't have to say a word next time you need them to support your idea or supply some needed information.

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