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Impression Management: The Salience of Positive Impression Vs. Negative Impression in The Work Context of South Africa

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Norman T Baloyi

University of Pretoria

Table of Contents

1.        Introduction and background        

2.        Research questions and objectives        

3.        Research methodology        

4.        Literature review        

4.1        Concepts of impression management        

4.2        Components of impression management        

4.2.1        Impression motivation        

4.2.2        Impression construction        

4.3        Tactics of impression management        

4.3.1        Defensive impression management        

4.3.2        Promotional impression management        

4.4        Approaches to impression management        

4.4.1        Universal approach        

4.4.2        Multiple contextual approach        

4.5        Impression management strategies        

4.5.1        Ingratiation        

4.5.2        Self-promotion        

4.5.3        Exemplification        

4.5.4        Intimidation        

4.5.5        Supplication        

4.6        Impression management perspectives        

4.7        Managerial Impression Management: theoretical perspective        

4.7.1        Socioanalytic theory        

4.7.2        Economic perspective        

4.7.3        Social psychology perspective        

4.7.4        Sociology perspective        

4.7.5        Critical perspective        

5        Motivations for using impression management        

6        Managing impression        

7        Consequences to unsuccessful impression        

8        Primacy effect        

6        Impressions on job seeking        

5.1        Resumes        

5.2        Application letter        

5.3        Job interviews        

5.        Findings and Discussions        

6.        Summary and conclusion        

7.        Future Research        

8.        References        


Purpose: The research purpose of this study is to capture how impression management is conceptualized in literature, the tactics/strategies that are in the work context of South Africa, distinguish which tactics are positive and which ones are negative, identify when employees will use impression tactics in their work place, and make recommendations to the organizations, the HR field in the management of impression management, and future research?

Design/methodology/approach: A contemporary review was undertaken and based on a predefined protocol. The references were identified using inclusion and exclusion criteria and specific key terms in search databases. A qualitative design from a phenomenological approach is used where exploration and discovery of universal themes are conducted in order to explain the series of meanings of a phenomenon.


Originality/value:  impression management in the context of workplace has not been extensively researched in South Africa. This paper unveils the current trends that are extensively being used by employees, and what employers and HR officials need to do to counteract employees’ tactics.  


  1. Introduction and background

The Online Oxford Dictionary defines an impression as “an idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, especially one formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence”. Impression therefore can be formed unintentionally/unconsciously and or with little evidence. In research paper, Mote et al. (2012) concluded that “Impression occurs as the first and quick stage in the decision making process. Impression provides a frame within the later decision process, but sometimes the final decision and real behaviour could appear outside the initial frame provided by an impression”.  

Impression management (also called self-presentation) is defined as a “course to affect the view others have about oneself, by checking the self-reflected information” (Demir, 2002; Basım, Tatar & Sahin, 2006). In other words, impression management happens when an “individual alters their self-presentation to be perceived more favourably by others” (Crutzen & Göritz, 2010). This alteration is done consciously when the goal of getting positive response that one is looking for. In some instances, individuals misrepresent themselves by portraying positive abilities and /or characteristics they don’t possess or know (Fox & Schwartz, 2002).

There are five factors that appear to “determine the kinds of impressions people try to construct: the self-concept, desired and undesired identity images, role constraints, target's values, and current social image” (Leary & Kowalski, 1990).

Rosenfeld, Giacalone, & Riordan (1995) suggest that a “primary human motive, both inside and outside organizations is to avoid being evaluated negatively”. This suggestion is highly likely to be true because each and every person will attempt to have positive evaluation / ratings. Impression management therefore involves the process of influencing higher hierarchy people/supervisors in the organization (Porter, Allen, & Angle, 1983).  

Impression management is very common within business activities. This paper considers about impression management in the workplace as it is critical to organizations and individuals and to individuals within the organizations as well as individuals in contact with organizational clients (Provis, 2010).

Jain (2012) suggest that a “primary human motive, both inside and outside organizations is to avoid being evaluated negatively” (Jain, 2012).   There is a dramaturgical framework that was introduced by Goffman (1959), in the study of impression management that describes the way one present them and how others perceive that presentation (Cole, Rozelle, 2011). The impression is that the actor intently and deliberately chooses the type of the behaviour that will be acceptable to the audience in an attempt of receiving the desired effect. In this way, when the audience responds positively to the actor, the actor will continue in the same way/strategy that pleases the audience.

As Leary and Kowalski (1990) emphasize that “impression management theory does not imply that the impression management created by individuals is necessarily false”. For instance, people who are committed to the organization and seek to be viewed as committed may be portraying their true colours.

In the work context, every organization will prefer to choose strategies that will attract positive image to the investors, clients and /or potential employees, and employees will choose strategies that will please their superiors and /or the clients in order to maintain good relationship. In this way, the choice of the strategies of impression management is to understand personal motivation behind the strategy choice, the specific target audience and the situational factors in the environment where the impression management occurs.

By wanting to impress others, “respondents may make use of self-report questionnaires they will intentionally either claim to have positive attributes they know they normally do not have, or they will deny or downplay negative attributes they know they have” (Fox & Schwartz, 2002).

Cole and Rozelle (2011) concluded that “there is a direct link of interaction between the actor and the organizational audience”. This is proven by the fact that, in theory, when two parties meet, they consciously and/or automatically have an opinion or judgement about each other.  As a result, this activity of impression formation, is an “important and universal trend for everyone” (Taylor, 1997) as managing impressions of others about ourselves is critical, dynamic, purposeful, and strategic process.

Every person’s life is affected by impression management, whether positively or negatively. Crane & Crane (2004) suggested that there is a “need for those for organizational settings to understand the basic elements or constructs involved in impression management”. Employees are, as well, involved in the organizational settings when dealing with impression management for themselves and for their organization. New employees are also determined to make good impressions and to be accepted in and by the organization. Those who are matured in the organization make use of impression management for the purpose of positioning themselves for more influential role that they intend playing. Consequently, impression management turns out to be “a continuous activity” (Demir, 2002).

Mote al. al. (2012) concluded that “the impression formation process correlates with the meaning of desirability and assumed that desirability evaluation as an important part of the impression formation process”.  Harrington (1965) introduced the desirability function which has passed tests of time as it provided a psychological realistic desirability evaluation.

The objective of the study is to conduct literature review on impression management at the workplace, applying holistic approaches to a set of concepts and theories from literature sources with the aim of constructing providing recommendations to the Human Resources field as well as future research.

  1. Research questions and objectives

The overall aim was to explore how impression management is conceptualized in the workplace has been analysed and which methods have been used.

Specifically, the objectives of the systematic review can be expressed through the following questions:


  1. How is impression management conceptualised in literature?
  2. What impression tactics are used in the work context of South Africa?
  3. When will employees use impression tactics in their work place?
  4. What impression tactics are positive and what are negative?
  5. What recommendations can be made to organisations and the HR field in the management of impression management, and what recommendations can be made for future research?
  1. Research methodology

For the purpose of this research, a qualitative design from a phenomenological approach is used where exploration and discovery of universal themes are conducted in order to explain the series of meanings of a phenomenon. There is investigation of human behaviour with respect to impression management in the context of workplace by making use of exploratory techniques and exploratory research designs will be utilized to:

  1. gain new insight into a phenomenon of impression management;
  2. undertake a preliminary investigation prior to conducting a more structured study of the phenomenon;
  3. conceptualise the universal themes and sub-themes of the phenomenon;
  4. analyse and uncover how impressions are constructed;
  5. determine priorities for future research.

  1. Review methods

A structured contemporary methodology has been followed for identifying articles suitable for review (Aveyard, 2010). The review was conducted in an objective way based on predetermined protocol. The synthesis of the literature was done avoiding the author’s personal influences. The findings, discussion and conclusions sections are critically presented by the author. Specific inclusion and exclusion criteria were developed based on the aim and objectives for screening the literature through online search websites. The search strategy was based on detailed keywords and an extensive list of website searches. A data extraction instrument was constructed to capture and summarize important information.

  1. Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

The inclusion criteria were simple and based on the primary aim of the review.

  1. Qualitative information from interviews: This included the transcripts from unstructured, semistructured, and structured interviews. The results were produced by qualitative analysis and presented as themes. Any information derived from interviews using only questionnaires with closed questions was not included.
  2. Quantitative analysis of qualitative information: Any type of statistical analysis that was used to analyze the qualitative information described in Point 1 was included.

Some references that met the inclusion criteria were not included in the review due to the following reasons:

  1. Not written in English: References written only in English language were considered, as the majority of research is written in English and the author has the knowledge of English language only.
  2. Duplications: References that were identified more than once from different sources were excluded in the Management Reference software.
  3. Unobtainable references: Any reference that could not be obtained by interlibrary loan, searching online, purchasing it, or contacting the authors was not included in the review.
  4. Written before 2000.

  1. Identification of Studies

In the first stage of the review, specific keywords were defined prior to starting the search based on the overall aim and objectives of the review.

  1. Eleven separate searches were performed in each website. For each search, all the keywords (Table 1) were included following the format

‘‘keyword1 AND keyword2 AND keyword3 AND keyword4.’’

Table 1. List of keywords Included in searches

  1. Impression management, research, abstract
  1. Impression management, work context
  1. Impression management, positive, negative
  1. Positive impression, South Africa
  1. Negative impression, South Africa
  1. Impression, work context, South Africa
  1. Salience, impression, South Africa
  1. Impression, South Africa

  1. The first three searches included general keywords like qualitative, quantitative, and interviews for capturing as many articles as possible in which quantitative methods were used to analyze qualitative information.
  2. The next eight consisted of more specific keywords related to specific quantitative and qualitative methods or methodology.
  3. In all websites, the keywords were searched in ‘‘any field,’’ except for JSTOR and Science Direct where they were searched only in title, abstract, and keywords fields, otherwise the number of identified articles in these two websites was more than 6,000 and 35,000, respectively.
  4. The key terms were searched only in title in Google Scholar due to an extremely high number of articles, around a million, obtained if more fields were used.
  5. The search included reports, book chapters, conference abstracts, theses, and peer-reviewed articles based on wide variety of websites and journals without excluding any research area.
  6. Clinical, educational, statistical, and general websites were used as presented in Table 2.
  7. The Web of Science identified the highest number of journals as several search databases were linked to this website.
  8. The websites that identified the least number of references were Cochrane Review, PsycInfo, Journal of Mixed Methods, and Google Scholar even if, for the first three, the keywords were searched in ‘‘any field.’’
  9. Thirty abstracts, which were not written in English language, were excluded during the online search. The total number of articles found, including the duplications, was 1,710.
  1. Management of References

In the second stage of the review, all the identified articles were transferred into Management References software, EndNote Web V3.1, 2011. Using software was preferable to a manual way of managing references since it is more efficient and quicker (Aveyard, 2010).

  1. Literature review

  1. Concepts of impression management

Impression management is a relatively peripheral topic in social and personality psychology, where some researchers characterize its approach as more of a “guiding model than a theory of interpersonal behaviour” (Tetlock & Manstead, 1985). There has been so much interest and development in impression management as a fundamental interpersonal process. Self-presentational process has been enhanced by the conceptual analyses Baumeister (1986) and applying impression management perspective, and as a result coherence was provided.

Impression management has been conceptualized in different ways depending on the focus of analysis and theoretical perspective adopted. It has been conceptualised as Merkl-Davies & Brennan, (2012):

  1. reporting bias
  2. self-serving bias
  3. opportunistic managerial discretionary disclosure behaviour
  4. symbolic management and
  5. accounting rhetoric
  6. cheap talk

These different conceptualizations of impression management contribute to its better and enhanced understanding more especially inn a corporate reporting context. Impression management has been shown as “multifaceted and complex phenomenon aimed at shaping the perceptions of a wide range of outside parties” (Merkl-Davies & Brennan, (2012) as there different insights of it from sociology, psychology, sociology and critical perspectives.

The theories of impression management have been developed. The first one is called goal theory or tactics and it is all about “appearing attractive or liked” (Cole & Rozelle, 2011) and has been what most research focuses on. Another theory is about “the protection and maintenance of power” (Jones & Pittman (1982) and this power, whether maintained or increased, becomes the “influence used for control in a person’s social environment” (Cole & Rozelle, 2011). Approaches to impression management are discussed next.

  1. Components of impression management

Impression management involves two discrete processes called impression motivation, the second impression construction (Leary & Kowalski, 1990).

  1. Impression motivation

Impression motivation exists because people keep on monitoring their impact on others, sometimes this happens without attempting to create a particular impression, but “simply to ensure that their public persona is intact” (Leary & Kowalski, 1990). Sometimes, people attempt to want to control or shift what other people see in them, creating a particular impression in the minds of other people. There are occasions when people are highly motivated to create/manage certain impressions, but at the end refrain from doing so.

The components of impression motivation are (Leary & Kowalski, 1990):  

  1. Goal-relevance of impressions
  2. Value of desired goals
  3. Discrepancy between desired and current image

  1. Impression construction

People are more inclined to alter their behaviour when they are motivated to create particular impressions. This may include the “kind of impression to create and how they are going to go about doing so, such as deciding whether to create the desired impression via self-description, nonverbal behaviour, or props” (Leary & Kowalski, 1990).


The components of impression construction are (Leary & Kowalski, 1990):

  1. Self-concept
  2. Desired and undesired identity images
  3. Role constraints
  4. Target's values
  5. Current or potential social image

  1. Tactics of impression management

Bromley (1993) defined two main types of impression management: defensive and promotional, discussed next:

  1. Defensive impression management

This impression management is a “response to threats of social standing, reputation, or personal identity” (Bromley, 1993). This is in addition to what Tedeschi and Riess (1981) researched on by mentioning the manners in which threats are dealt with verbally, such as: apologizing, denying, making excuses, etc. These verbal tactics can also manifest in written form where personal statements, explanations of circumstances, unwillingness to take ownerships of responsibilities, making excuses, etc.  

  1. Promotional impression management

Bromley (1993) explains promotional impression management in this way: “we go out of our way to advertise our aspirations and achievements, or the benefits we can provide for others because of our abilities and circumstances” (p. 109). This is more of a personal statement and a selling tool for what promotion is all about. The “tactics of promotional impression management are seen in all facets of the application file, including the personal statement” Bromley (1993).

  1. Approaches to impression management

The two main approaches in impression management are universal and multiple contextual approaches:

  1. Universal approach

This approach “focuses on a person exhibiting to be an individual actor and further includes detailed analysis, focusing on impression management in a culture liberated environment” (Nayyar & Raja, 2012).

  1. Multiple contextual approach

This approach “discusses the forming of a particular impression with different contexts including general traditions and cultures; group socio-economic and demographic distinctiveness and specific situations and conditions and organizational individuality such as managerial roles and working categories and statuses” (Nayyar & Raja, 2012).


  1. Impression management strategies

The strategies of impression management are common in the workplace and exercised regularly and as a result have an organizational culture where performance is important (Gardner, 1992). Five strategies of impression management (Jones and Pitman, 1982) are Ingratiation, Self-promotion, Exemplification, Intimidation, and Supplication, discussed next.

  1. Ingratiation

Ingratiation is define as a “collection of forceful tactics with the aim of gaining the admiration of an audience, who has the authority to offer significant rewards for the actor”(Arif, 2011). This strategy “seeks to help an individual attain the social acceptance they desire (Cole, Rozelle, 2011). It is a set of linked acquisitive tactics with the goal of making a person to be more attractive and liked by others. The ingratiatory attempts to find out what the audience see as attractive and they provide exactly that to the audience (Schlenker, 1980).  

  1. Self-promotion

Rosenfeld (1995) said that self-promotion is “most often used when the chance of their claims being challenged or discredited as low”. Self-promotion often occurs when a person have the “opportunity to openly impress someone with a higher status about their competence” (Giacalone & Rosenfeld, 1986). This person, the self-promoter, all he/she wants, is to achieve have the status of competence by using self-descriptive communication in order to be seen as competent. This strategy is mainly manifested when a person is admitted into a new position (Tedeschi & Riess, 1981).

This strategy is “generally considered an aggressive strategy” (Arif, 2011). When a person expresses this strategy, other employees will show resentment and /or jealousy, and this is the negative potential of self-promotion strategy. The other negative potential is that self-promoters can be viewed as arrogant or conceited by fellow employees who do not have personal knowledge of them (Jones & Pittman, 1982).

  1. Exemplification

An employee, in this strategy, expresses himself / herself, to the supervisor, as over-committed and dedicated to the job, and at the same time making fellow employees to feel guilty of not being equally committed  and to “get others to emulate the behaviours presented” (Jones and Pittman (1982). Employees make use of this strategy to look like ideal employees who work “beyond the call of the duty when using this tactic” (Arif, 2011).    

  1. Intimidation

This is impression management strategy designed to “increase the credibility of ones threats and in turn enhance the probability that the target will comply with the actors demands for agreement” (Tedeschi & Riess, 1981). This is actually advertising one’s available power to create discomfort or all kinds of psychic pain. This is to show-off the available power, convincing the target of the how dangerous one is. The risk associated with this strategy is being viewed as forceful, tenacious and it is prone to receiving adverse reaction (Arif, 2011). The intimidator is not afraid of being disliked as he/she generates fear in others, coercing them into submission or action (Cole, Rozelle, 2011).

  1. Supplication

Supplication strategy entails actions that individuals make use of in order to demonstrate personality of humility and behaviour of helplessness. In supplication strategy, individuals involve exploiting their weaknesses by emphasizing their “own dependence and weakness to obtain help from a more powerful other” (Rosenfeld, 1995).  By so doing, these individuals activate the social rule of saying that powerful people must help people who are in need. They advertise their weakness, shortcomings, lack of ability or helplessness in order to receive sympathy and help from other people. The publicity of these shortcomings is an effort to be seen as disadvantaged people and in need of support.  

Supplication is considered as a “passive strategy and employees may engage in supplication to seek the help and support from others” (Arif, 2011). The reasons and motives for showing helplessness behaviour include “simply not wanting to do a task, to avoid criticism for making a mistake, and actually not knowing how to get something or accomplish something (Leary, 1996).

  1. Impression management perspectives

Impression management has been applied in a number of perspectives in an increasing variety of interpersonal phenomena such as the following:

  1. counseling processes (Friedlander & Schwartz, 1985).
  2. social facilitation (Bond, 1982; Sanders, 1984)
  3. social anxiety and inhibition (Schlenker & Leary, 1982b)
  4. self-handicapping (Kolditz & Arkin, 1982)
  5. attitude change (Schlenker, Forsyth, Leary, & Miller, 1980)
  6. self-serving attributions (Weary & Arkin, 1981)
  7. perceived exertion (Hardy, Hall, & Prestholdt, 1986)
  8. psychotic symptoms (Braginsky, Braginsky, & Ring, 1969)
  9. aggression (Felson, 1978; Tedeschi, Smith, & Brown, 1974)

  1. Managerial Impression Management: theoretical perspective

  1. Socioanalytic theory

Impression management in Socioanalytic theory is considered as “the process whereby one controls one’s behaviour during any form of social interaction, including responding to measurement items as a social skill” (Hogan, Barrett & Hogan, 2007). The assumption ere is that people with good social skills are able to control the impressions they make on other people, and in contrast, people with poor social skills seems “unaware of the impressions they make on others” (Hogan & Blickle, 2013). In this theory, people use items on a personality measure, telling them how they want to be regarded and at the same acting on the very same way (Hogan & Roberts, 1999). Solomon, Solomon, Joseph & Norton (2013) researched that “if people are trying to present themselves in a more positive light, whether completing a personality measure or just trying to impress someone at work, home or simply the other gender, they will exhibit certain features”. An example of this is that if “employees want to impress their managers, especially for the first time, they may either act more professionally or attempt to portray the value they can offer the company” (Mazalia & Rodrigues-Neto, 2013).

  1.  Economic perspective

The economic perspective, in impression management entails “managers taking advantage of information asymmetries by means of manipulating the presentation and disclosure of information with the purpose of maximising their personal wealth” (Rutherford, 2003). Company’s narrative documents “serve as impression management vehicles to present a self-interested view of corporate performance” (Bettman and Weitz, 1983, p.166-167).

  1. Social psychology perspective

Goffman (1959) originated social psychology concept on impression management when performing artists were performing on the stage for the audience. Goffman used the analogy, “a ‘performance’ may be defined as all the activity of a given participant on a given occasion which serves to influence in any way any of the other participants” (p. 15). Goffman (1959) concluded that “impression management is neither the result of rational decision-making which takes the expected consequences of each choice into account, nor entirely motivated by material gain”. Impression management, as concluded, is “embedded in and dependent on management’s relationship with organisational audiences” (Goffman, 1959).  

  1. Sociology perspective

In sociology perspective, company narrative reporting is regarded as determined by the constraints of the structure which is exerted by society or different stakeholder groups. Impression management is regarded as “an attempt on the part of management to react to the concerns of various stakeholder groups or to respond to public pressure and media attention” (Hooghiemstra, 2000).

  1. Critical perspective

Critical perspective interrogates instrumental rationality assumption that underlies the research of impression management. If rationality is a social construct, organizations may use company narrative documents to give the evidence of rational decision-making. When the organization is legitimacy is when it achieves conformance to social ideologies of rational decision making. In other words, impression management is when the organization desires to be seen as conforming to the rules of the society and to “forestall the interference of external agencies in the operation of the organisation (Hines, 1989).

  1. Motivations for using impression management

In most times or days, each person spends time scanning through their world in order to maintain public personal or positive image “without purposefully creating an impression on others, until we are motivated to do so” (Leary & Kowalski, 1990). This type of motivation can be associated with psychological behaviours, where individuals unconsciously become motivated to want to have a control about how other people view/see (Leary & Kowalski, 1990), more especially when there is a high motivation of achieving something. Schlenker (1980) discussed that “on average one’s goal is to maximize expected rewards and minimize expected punishments”.

People may be motived to create impressions for different reasons which Tedeschi and Riess, (1981) have explored are:

  1. “social role playing in symbolic interactions;
  2. avoiding blame and gaining credit;
  3. self-esteem maintenance;
  4. strategic self-presentation;
  5. power and social influence;
  6. creating connotative impressions” (p. 4).

Other reasons for people to make use of impression management are for:

  1. job offers
  2. job interviews
  3. gaining membership in certain social circles,
  4. gaining acceptance into relationships
  5. recognition in everyday social interactions with others.

The use of impression management, in most times, is for good purposes and healthy. Impression management can be important to “lubricate social interactions and help individuals adjust in these relations” (Bromley, 1993).  

When a person wants to be admitted into a school and such an admission being important, this person’s impression before the admission committee is very relevant, so is the desire to improve the impression. A high level of impression can be created when this person’s admission is highly critical and motivation is high and the person becoming more motivated to manage the impression. Leary & Kowalski (1990).said that “people are motivated to manage their impression when something they desire is incumbent on that impression”.

The use of using impression management will be even higher when there are discrepancies between the current image (not having requisite requirements) and desire image (having all the requisite requirements).

  1. Impressions on job seeking

  1. Resumes

Resume or curriculum vitae is more like a personal statement or self-presentation and attempts to prove one’s skills, experience, and capabilities to be able to perform the job applying for.  There have been some researches on impression management and resumes that considered tactics that perform better than other tactics. Knouse (1994) found that “successful impression management tactics in the resume would appear to center upon self-descriptive statements that clarify and enhance credentials in a reasonable manner” (p. 44). Soroko (2012) found that “job candidates adapt their self-presentation to what they perceive is most desirable to the employer. In short, job applicants spend their time and energy writing about what they think the employer wants” (p. 4).

The readers of the resumes when seeing lists of experiences, accomplishments, skills and knowledge acquired, can have positive or improved perceptions about the candidates. The levels of self-confidences, interpersonal skills, and assertiveness of candidates can be estimated when reviewing the resumes.

When resumes list accomplishments and experience, the readers had improved perceptions of candidates, especially in areas like interpersonal skills and self-confidence (Knouse, 1994).

  1. Application letter

The application letter is usually written in the front page of the resume and motivates the reasons for application and clarifying the candidate’s suitability to the position.  Soroko (2012) stated that the purpose of an application letter is to “pique the interest of the reviewer and also promote the candidate by highlighting his or her fit to job and company requirements” (p. 5). This letter provides interest of the candidate, determining the extent to which the candidate will meet and manage the challenges of the post.  

  1. Job interviews

There has been much research interest regarding impression management during job interviews. The methods or tactics that are used by job seekers are now explored. Levashina and Campion (2007) created a measurement tool that measures the behaviours of individuals who fake interviews, making themselves more suitable for the position and better than the competitors.

The behaviours considered by Levashina and Campion (2007) are:

  1. “slight image creation,
  2. extensive image creation,
  3. image protection, and
  4. ingratiation”

“The research found that job applicants who used extensive image creation but did not use image protection had the most favourable outcomes” (Levashina & Campion, 2007).

Paulhus (1984) conducted another similar study and found that “individuals provide more disingenuous responses when they want to align their answers to what they believe others expect of them”. Job interviews provide platforms for job seekers to create personal statements and possibly manage impressions.

The ultimate goal of job seekers during interviews is to make use of extensive image creation such as claiming extensive prior related work experience and proving oral / communications skills.

  1. Managing impressions  

People manage their impression based on the constraints of how they see themselves (Schlenker, 1980). Leary & Kowalski (1990) said that many peoples’ “managed impressions do not include outright fabrication” because it is all understood that lying is not appreciated by the majority of the people. Instead, people prefer to “project an impression of their desired image; this is who they would like to be or really believe they can be and to avoid attributes they do not want to be associated” (Leary & Kowalski, 1990). “Public impressions reflect an interplay between the self-concept and desired-undesired identity images” (Leary & Kowalski, 1990, p. 41).

Impressions can be managed in the same manner as one maintains their own reputation at work. Managing impression management is more like managing reputation management that has been researched by Bromley (1993):

  1. “Marshalling support for oneself (both seen in personal statements and letters of recommendations).
  2. Finding opportunities for public expression (such as requesting an interview or visiting the law school to make a personal appearance to the admission officers).
  3. Repairing damage to reputation (explaining unsavoury or “red flag” issues in the application in the personal statement or through an addendum to the application)”.
  1. Consequences to unsuccessful impression

When there are failures of creating positive impression, there are consequences for that. Bromley (1993) said that “bad impression management can create the opposite effect” and this may include the following:

  1. “unconvincing friendliness can be seen as ingratiation or ineffective charm can be seen as smarmy.
  2. Because impression management is dyadic, there is a chance for failure when the actor misunderstands the audience to be influenced or has ineffective communication methods to convey the correct impression” (Bromley, 1993).

  1. Primacy effect

When making impressions of other people and the way we manage that impressions, starts the time we learn about these other people. The order we receive information determines the types of judgement we make.  Aronson (2012) says the information “we learn about people first has a decisive impact on our judgment of that person” (p. 128). In other words, learning / reading / seeing positive things about the other person influences us to have the positive impression of that person; whereas if we learn / read / see negative things then our impression will be negative. This provides us with the information that we need to actively correct the information that is presented to us in order to make right judgements.    


  1. Findings and Discussions

  1. Summary and conclusion

The use of a particular impression management strategy is always dependent on attribution the person is seeking from the audience. Employees can use one or more number of these strategies in order to get the attention of other people’s perceptions and / or feelings of the feelings at hand.  

  1. Future Research

Impression management, as a mature and well-grounded theoretical framework, is an area with the potential of being researched in a wider range of applications such as:

  1. More refinement of impression management models investigating the extent to which other individual motives or goals may distort employees’ perceptions of self-reported knowledge gain and, more importantly, the influence of contextual factors.
  2. For impression management to gained more credibility and sincerity, it should be able to differentiate between people who behave in a genuine way and those who demonstrate the behaviour that appear desirable with the motive of attaining some other goals.  
  3. More evolution of impression management perspective into performance of Organizational Citizenship Behaviour because engaging in citizenship behaviour in organizational settings is a viable means of achieving favourable attributions. Bolino (1999) studied the relevance of various acts of impression management in relation to citizenship behaviour. Many measures of impression management include specific behaviours that OCB researchers labels as citizenship behaviours.
  4. More support and research for the joint-influence of social desirability (impression management, self-deception) and motives (need for power and affiliation) in influencing their reporting unrelated knowledge gains.
  5. Diffusion of innovation such as alternative, under-investigated motivation for adoption including social, emotional, and non-utilitarian motivation
  6. Marketing and innovation research in a wider range of consumption activities or decisions surrounding new product adoption and trend following.
  7. Potential role of impression management and self-deception in more severe transgressions

  1. References



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