GLIMS Journal of Management Review
and Transformation
issue front

Ashita Gupta1 and Keerthi Sagadevan2

First Published 6 Jun 2024.
Article Information Volume 3, Issue 1 March 2024
Corresponding Author:

Keerthi Sagadevan, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB), Bannerghatta Road, Opposite of Big Bazar, Bilekahalli, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560076, India.

1 BITSoM, BITS School of Management, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB), Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Creative Commons Non Commercial CC BY-NC: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-Commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed.


In recent years, impression management (IM) has garnered substantial scholarly attention, significantly enhancing our comprehension of various factors within organisational contexts. This is a systematic literature review (SLR) research on IM from 2016 to 2024, building on both foundational and recent research. IM involves intentionally influencing how others see us, which significantly affects both individual behaviour and the way organisations function. This review highlights the widespread role and implications of IM in workplaces. It looks at how IM techniques, organisational rules and gender stereotypes interact. Our review presents two major findings. First, we found a strong positive link between successful IM strategies and better organisational performance, showing the real benefits of skilled IM. Second, we noticed a complex connection between IM methods and employee satisfaction, pointing out the need to align IM practices with employee happiness. This SLR not only deepens our theoretical knowledge but also has practical applications for managers. It emphasises the importance of ethically managing IM to ensure authenticity and openness. Also, by pointing out missing pieces in the existing research, this review suggests new areas for future studies to investigate the changing trends and finer details of IM in modern organisational settings.


impression management, inner value, self-presentation, social interaction, social recognition, group interaction


Impression management (IM) is prevalent in workplaces. The research on IM relates to SDG 5 (i.e., gender inequality), SDG 8 (i.e., decent work and economic growth) and SDG 10 (i.e., reduced inequality). IM is relevant for gender inequality (e.g., Sanaria, 2016), work and growth (e.g., Hon & Gamor, 2022) and reducing inequality (e.g., Hossain & Alam,2023).

Bolino et al.’s (2016) examination of IM was a pivotal moment for the field, outlining nine key research questions and suggesting future research directions. This study aims to build on their foundation by reviewing the evolution of IM research from 2016 onwards. We delve into the subsequent literature, assessing how the inquiries posed by Bolino et al. have been addressed and spotlighting new themes that have emerged since their review. To our knowledge, this is the inaugural attempt to synthesise IM literature post 2016.

In our approach, we adopted a systematic literature review methodology, rigorously selecting top-tier studies published between 2016 and 2022. Our focus was narrowed to articles from journals on the FT50 list, ensuring a high standard of research quality. Through a keyword search targeting terms including ‘impression management’, ‘self-promotion’, ‘exemplification’, ‘intimidation’, ‘ingratiation’ and ‘supplication’, we identified 29 articles from FT50 journals. This article synthesises these contributions, spotlighting the forward leaps in IM studies and the emergent trends that are shaping the field.

IM, often interchanged with terms such as self-presentation or image management, is a fundamental element of social interaction, embodying the strategies people employ, both consciously and unconsciously, to influence others’ perceptions of them. In an era where personal branding and social media are ubiquitous, comprehending the nuances of IM is increasingly pertinent. Despite substantial advancements in this field through cross-disciplinary research, the dynamic nature of communication technologies and societal norms continues to reshape the landscape, presenting new challenges and opportunities for effective IM.

This article aims to address a crucial research problem: Understanding how the field of IM has evolved in response to the challenges posed by technological advancements and changing social norms since Bolino et al.’s (2016) important review. Our objective is to synthesise the recent literature, assessing the extent to which the research questions proposed by Bolino et al. have been explored and identifying emerging themes that could inform future studies. To our knowledge, this represents the first comprehensive review of IM literature post-2016, aiming to fill a significant gap and offering a fresh perspective on how individuals and organisations can effectively navigate this complex domain. Through this work, we seek to provide a robust framework for academics and practitioners alike, encouraging further research that can extend our understanding and application of IM strategies in contemporary settings.


This section explains how we approached the review of IM research in top journals from 2016 to 2024. First, we identified the list of FT50 journals. Next, we accessed each journal’s homepage and searched for keywords (refer to Table 1). We found 29 articles through our search.

Table 1. Overview of Criteria and Description for Analysed Articles.


This methodology outlines the systematic approach we used to explore IM in scholarly publications. This approach helps ensure our study is reliable and provides valuable insights into academic publishing strategies.

Literature Review

In their comprehensive review, Bolino et al. (2016) delineated nine prospective pathways for future inquiry into the domain of IM, encapsulated within Table 3 of their publication. Herein, we spotlight studies from leading journals—those from FT50 journals—published from 2016 to 2024 that have ventured into some of these suggested domains.

Understanding Impression Management

IM is when a person tries to control how others see their behaviour, motives, morals, intelligence and other personal qualities (Lopes & Fletcher, 2004, pp. 747–748). Cantor et al. (1982) identified five main strategies for doing this: ingratiation to be liked, self-promotion to look competent, exemplification to show dedication, intimidation to seem powerful and supplication to appear needy.

Recent studies, like the one by McFarland et al. (2023), show that people’s reasons for managing impressions are partly driven by the chance of being judged in certain situations (like public behaviour or important events). They also found that how motivation for IM works can depend on the type of interactions at the workplace, like whether interactions are immediate or anonymous, and whether they can be checked and remembered.

Research on the Impression Management of Creative Individuals

The focus has traditionally been on how others evaluate creative individuals, with less attention given to these individuals’ implicit perceptions. However, studies like that of Katz et al. (2022) demonstrate that implicit intentions of creative people can predict behavioural intentions towards them, offering a nuanced understanding of creative individuals’ impressions. This research underscores that perceivers can accurately and impactfully track relevant information about creativity at an implicit level, offering insights more precise and innovative than existing explicit measures.

First Impressions in the Digital Realm

Aversa et al. (2021) explored how digital giants like Uber and BlaBlaCar navigate market entry strategies using distinct categorisation tactics—incumbent-focused and economic versus emergent-focused and non-economic. Their study introduces ‘category priming’ as a method to direct stakeholders’ attention towards or away from similarities shared with specific market categories, influencing first impressions in the digital marketplace.

Impression Management Over Environmental Concerns

In their analysis of Volkswagen’s response to environmental challenges, Gaim et al. (2021) discuss how the allure of resolving paradoxes can lead to dysfunctional behaviour, where companies manage impressions rather than addressing the underlying issues. Their work adds to paradox theory by highlighting how striving for paradoxical goals can result in prioritising IM over achieving a genuine mastery of paradoxes.

These studies collectively advance our understanding of IM by addressing the queries posed by Bolino et al. (2016) and opening new avenues for research in this evolving field.

What IM Behaviours have been Identified?

Boiral (2016) delved into the tactics organisations utilise to showcase their responsibility towards biodiversity, highlighting the use of neutralisation techniques to legitimise their impacts. These techniques include the following:

Proclaiming a net positive or neutral impact on biodiversity

Denying significant impacts

Distancing from the consequences of their actions

Minimising their responsibilities

Kibler et al. (2017) explored IM strategies that entrepreneurs use post-venture failure to maintain social legitimacy. They discovered that attributing failure to external, unstable and uncontrollable factors was the most effective strategy.

Kibler et al. (2021) provided an analysis of venture failure narratives, creating a typology of five distinct IM strategies used by entrepreneurs in public statements: triumph, harmony, embrace, offset and show.

Graffin et al. (2016) investigated anticipatory IM through ‘impression offsetting’, a technique to mitigate negative market reactions to acquisitions by pre-emptively managing stakeholder expectations.

Ji and Yan (2022) examined the behavioural outcomes of engaging in counterproductive work behaviour, revealing its indirect promotion of pro-social rule-breaking through IM motives, with the relationship moderated by leader perception.

Sanchez-Ruiz et al. (2021) studied the effect of ingratiation tactics in entrepreneurial pitches on funding decisions, finding that while flattery and self-deprecation were detrimental, self-promotion and opinion conformity positively influenced funding outcomes.

Boiral (2016) again emphasised organisations’ strategic use of neutralisation techniques to manage stakeholder impressions on sensitive social issues like biodiversity, employing strategies to claim positive impacts or downplay responsibility.

Graffin et al. (2016) explored ‘impression offsetting’ as a sign of CEO confidence levels, suggesting that unrelated positive announcements around acquisition times could signal a CEO’s uncertainty about the value creation potential of the acquisition.

Roussy and Rodrigue (2018) highlighted IM techniques in internal auditing, showing how chief audit executives (CAEs) collaborate with managers to enhance the image of the audit function and management team.

Parker and Schmitz (2022) investigated the role of office design in Big Four accounting firms, suggesting that strategic design choices are aimed at managing client impressions and potentially affecting auditor independence and audit quality.

Jin et al. (2022) argued that firms use ‘strategic noise’ as an anticipatory and reactive form of IM to influence market reactions to certain events, adjusting their strategies based on initial market responses.

Gender Effects on Impression Management

India’s high power distance culture coupled with the traditionally low social status of women has spurred the emergence of a women’s movement in the country. Sanaria (2016) provided insights into the significant theoretical contributions regarding IM strategies employed by Indian women, drawing from social role theory and attitude towards gender stereotypes (ATGS).

The choice of IM strategies among Indian women is influenced by gender stereotypes, the nature of the job roles in terms of femininity and masculinity, and attitudes towards these stereotypes. In organisational contexts, aggressive IM techniques are usually discouraged. Indian women in male-dominated job roles who challenge gender stereotypes often find it difficult to navigate these environments. As a result, they tend to use gentler, more subtle IM strategies, which is in line with the overall preference for indirect methods in India. In contrast, men often use more direct and assertive strategies.

In careers dominated by men, women sometimes feel out of place, which leads them to use specific IM tactics. A study by Cook et al. (2023) looked at how female stand-up comedians present themselves in different types of performance environments, comparing male-dominated settings to more gender-balanced ones. The findings showed that these women adjusted their presentations based on the gender composition of the setting, which supports the social identity-based impression management (SIM) theory by Robert. They showed more gender-typical behaviour in diverse settings and less so in male-dominated ones.

Culture and Impression Management

In India, a nation characterised by high power distance and traditionally low social status for women, an emerging women’s movement has been making strides. Sanaria (2016) significantly contributed to understanding the IM strategies Indian women employ, leveraging social role theory and ATGS. The selection of IM strategies is shaped by gender stereotypes, the femininity or masculinity associated with a job role and attitudes toward gender stereotypes. Despite the general unacceptability of aggressive IM techniques in organisations, Indian women in masculine roles facing adverse gender stereotypes often struggle to adapt. They, along with the broader Indian populace, tend to favour softer, more subtle IM strategies, in contrast to the more direct approaches typically used by men.

Ward and Ravlin (2017) explore how international newcomers can increase their influence within workgroups. They introduce a cross-cultural IM framework that highlights how engaging behaviours can shape perceptions of the self, targets and context, providing a basis for leveraging diversity benefits in organisations.

Krieg and Robinson (2018) delved into the differences in IM tactics between the East and West, focusing on exemplification, self-promotion and ingratiation across Japan, Korea and the United States. The study found that Korean employees used all three strategies most frequently, followed by Americans, with Japanese employees using them the least. While American employees applied IM uniformly across all targets, Japanese and Korean employees varied their strategies based on the target, revealing cultural nuances in the application of IM strategies.

Other Themes

Impression Management and Entrepreneurs

Kibler et al. (2017) explored how entrepreneurs can use IM strategies to regain social legitimacy from stakeholders after a business failure. Through a conjoint experiment, they found that attributing failure to external, unpredictable factors beyond the entrepreneur’s control was the most effective strategy for maintaining a positive public perception. This approach hinges on the understanding that attributing failure to external, transient and uncontrollable factors can mitigate negative impressions.

A research by Bitektine (2011) revealed that the effect of causality on legitimacy judgements is significantly moderated by an evaluator’s self-efficacy, with those possessing high self-efficacy more likely to attribute failure internally, aligning with theories of social cognition by Fiske (1993) and Bandura (2012).

Sanchez-Ruiz et al. (2021) analysed how entrepreneurs’ use of ingratiation tactics in investor pitches affects funding outcomes. They differentiated between various tactics like flattery, self-deprecation, opinion conformity and self-promotion, concluding that while flattery and self-deprecation can deter investment, self-promotion and opinion conformity tend to positively influence funding decisions.

Kibler et al. (2021) investigated how entrepreneurs publicly communicate venture failures to maintain their professional reputation through IM. They identified five types of venture failure narratives—triumph, harmony, embrace, offset and show—each representing a unique approach to publicly framing failure.

Collewaerte et al. (2021) delved into the use of optimistic forecasts by non-founder CEOs as a post-investment IM technique to influence investors. They found that founder-CEOs, who have a stronger identification with their ventures, are less likely to present overly optimistic forecasts compared to non-founder CEOs, highlighting how commitment to the long-term relationship with investors influences the strategic communication of entrepreneurial forecasts.

Impression Management at Macro Organisation Level

The research examines the role of IM at the organisational level, highlighting different strategies organisations use to influence perceptions and maintain a favourable image.

Hayward and Fitza (2017) explored how organisations use precise earnings forecasts as an IM tool. They found that strategic leaders utilise these forecasts to project authority and control over the organisation’s performance, particularly after setbacks. The study indicates that precise forecasts are a psychological tactic aimed at improving investor responses by presenting an optimistic outlook on the organisation’s future.

Davison and Giovannoni (2023) investigated the use of visual artifacts as a means of IM, focusing on the Sienese Biccherna panels. These historical artifacts demonstrate how imagery, calligraphy and heraldry were used to convey idealised and reassuring images of governance during complex times, serving as an early example of visual IM.

Roussy and Rodrigue (2018) analysed how CAEs employ IM techniques in their annual reports to audit committees. Through a case study, they revealed that CAEs use both macro and micro IM strategies to enhance the image of internal auditors and management teams, often collaborating with managers rather than strictly monitoring them. This study sheds light on IM practices within private reporting channels.

Parker and Schmitz (2022) examined how the Big Four accounting firms’ office designs contribute to client relations, office efficiency and cost control. Applying Goffman’s theories, the study used historical and website analysis to show that modern office designs are strategically used to manage impressions with clients, aiming to create a front stage for professional services that enhances the firm’s image, promotes auditor independence and ensures audit quality.

Other Themes Explored by Researchers

Researchers have delved into various aspects of IM techniques and their impacts. Busenbark et al. (2017) explored the use of foreshadowing by managers, a tactic that involves hinting at future strategic actions, such as acquisitions before they occur. They discovered that when managers foreshadowed upcoming acquisitions, it led to fewer analyst downgrades post-announcement, particularly in situations where analysts were uncertain about the firm’s prospects. This strategy also increased the likelihood of successful acquisitions due to more favourable analyst responses.

Russell et al. (2018) investigated how the implementation of high-performance work practices (HPWPs) by line managers affects employee perceptions and outcomes. Applying IM theory, they suggested that the way these practices are executed by managers influences employees’ impressions of their leadership styles. This effect is moderated by employees’ affective states and attributional tendencies, making the impact of HPWPs on perceptions of leadership style somewhat unpredictable and dependent on the context of implementation and individual employee factors.

Managing Impressions and Advancing Sustainable Development Goals

Effective IM strategies can significantly influence the advancement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By aligning personal or organisational portrayals with the ethos of sustainable development, entities can foster greater engagement and support for these global objectives (Callagher & Garnevska, 2023). This approach not only promotes awareness but also motivates collective action towards achieving sustainability targets.

Our focus within the SDGs is on Goal 5, which addresses gender inequality (Sanaria, 2016). Our discussion centres on the context of gender inequality in India, exploring the definitions and divisions of work considered masculine or feminine.

Additionally, we turn our attention to Goal 8, which promotes decent work and economic growth (Hon & Gamor, 2022). Within organisational settings, every individual aims to advance professionally and economically. Employing IM strategies can be instrumental in facilitating their growth, contributing not only to their personal development but also to broader economic progress within the organisation.

Furthermore, we extend our discussion to Goal 10, which focuses on reduced inequality (Hossain & Alam, 2023). The concept of IM has significant implications for addressing social inequalities within organisations. Through strategic self-presentation and communication, individuals and organisations can influence perceptions and change behaviours within their sphere of influence. This approach can be particularly effective in promoting equality, as it helps to reshape organisational cultures and practices that perpetuate disparities. By using IM consciously and ethically, organisations can create more inclusive environments where diversity is valued and equality is advanced.

Future Research

Boiral (2016) suggests future research could delve into the credibility and legitimacy perceptions of neutralisation techniques. Jin et al. (2022) propose areas for future exploration, including the impact of event inconsistencies on IM effectiveness, how different contexts influence the reception of positive and negative news, the short-term versus long-term effects of IM tactics, and the impact of strategic noise in competitive M&A scenarios.

Future studies are encouraged to examine the role and effectiveness of ingratiation rhetoric, as highlighted by Sanchez-Ruiz et al. (2021), and to enhance the reliability and validity of research through multi-source measures, especially in counterproductive work behaviour studies, as suggested by Ji and Yan (2022).

Long (2021) points towards areas such as examining responses to various IM strategies such as exemplification, understanding supervisor attribution in employee ingratiation and exploring actors’ perspectives on tactility and authenticity. Future research guided by SIM theory could explore how women manage gender identities in different organisational and social contexts, including the role of feminism in supporting women in unwelcoming situations, as discussed by Cook et al. (2023).

Further research could also investigate the dynamics and outcomes of entrepreneurs providing constructive forecasts to investors, exploring the existence and significance of causal paths within forecasting and IM, as mentioned by Collewaert et al. (2021). Additionally, future inquiries could probe into the learning processes of professional investors regarding earnings guidance precision and its potential as a precursor to earnings management, as suggested by Hayward and Fitza (2017).

Busenbark et al. (2017) advocate for research on managerial foreshadowing beyond acquisitions, while Den Hartog et al. (2004) and Russell et al. (2018) recommend considering individual differences that could influence impression formation, emphasising the need for a nuanced understanding of how personal characteristics affect perceptions of intent and leadership.


This review represents a significant advancement in the field of IM, enhancing our comprehension of how individuals strategically present themselves across different contexts. Researchers have carefully analysed and classified various tactics of IM, including self-promotion and ingratiation, providing a structured framework for understanding personal IM endeavours.

Research has delved into the nuanced behaviours associated with IM across diverse settings, from professional environments like job interviews to the digital persona on social media platforms. This exploration has unearthed the motivations and techniques behind individuals’ efforts to curate favourable perceptions among their peers.

Particularly, the impact of IM within creative processes, entrepreneurship and organisational behaviour has been a focal point of study. In creative fields, the interplay between IM and innovation has been examined, revealing how strategic self-presentation can foster or hinder creative collaboration and idea generation. Within the entrepreneurial landscape, the role of IM in garnering investment, forging partnerships and customer engagement has been highlighted, underscoring its significance in navigating the entrepreneurial journey successfully.

Moreover, the intricate dynamics of IM within organisational settings have been scrutinised, shedding light on how individuals manoeuvre their impressions to ascend professional hierarchies, secure leadership roles and wield influence. These studies offer insights into the social intricacies, power dynamics and the fabric of relationships within workplaces.

To conclude, the body of research on IM since 2016 has considerably advanced our comprehension of how individuals strategically navigate their social and professional worlds through IM. By investigating its application in creativity, entrepreneurship and organisational contexts, scholars have not only broadened the theoretical frameworks but also underscored the practical relevance of IM in shaping successful outcomes and dynamics in various spheres of life.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.


The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.


Keerthi Sagadevan


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