I love WordPress. Well, perhaps not as much as my family and friends, but I do like it a lot. Why? WordPress tracks the search terms people use when they find my blog. This allows me to stay relevant, and more importantly, to give all of you answers/feedback to questions you are asking. Recently, people have been asking about a couple of things, Coercive Power being one of them.
Business Dictionary.com defines Coercive Power as “Authority or power that is dependent on fear, suppression of free will, and/or use of punishment or threat, for its existence.” There are arguably times when Coercive Power is needed. However, in the world of business I cannot think of a single other incident where Coercive Power is recommended. Coercive power breeds fear, resentment and mistrust. The outcomes are always negative. In the event you won some battle or struggle using Coercive Power, in the end you lose because you ruined a relationship.
Why do people use Coercive Power? Two reasons. The first is fear. People that use Coercive Power have an ingrained fear of something that they don’t know how to deal with. Examples include: Fear of failure; Fear of rejection; Fear of looking stupid; Fear of inadequacy; Fear of relationships; Fear of not knowing what to do; Fear of success; Fear of losing a job; Fear of not having money. The list goes on and on.
It is the inner fear that drives someone to use Coercive Power, but that is just part of the problem. The other contributing factor is lack of training and an environment/culture that is not directed at excellence. If the organization’s culture is directed at excellence, fear would be diminished and so would the use of Coercive Power. Consider an organization that…
- has a clear vision and mission
- clearly defines roles and responsibilities for its people
- compensates people fairly and has a career path defined
- develops people through bi-annual reviews
- allows for mistakes, but consistent poor performance is not tolerated
- trains its employees, including leadership training
- that places a high emphasis on integrity
An organization that is built on these things will have far fewer people using Coercive Power. When I see Coercive Power consistently used in the workplace (even if it’s just one person), I draw the conclusion that the individual is having problems with fear, and that the organization’s leadership does not value excellence.
What do you do if you have someone who uses Coercive Fear in your organization? Go directly to Senior Leadership and point out the problem. If you have a leadership driven organization, the individual will get help. If not… the problem will remain. If you have someone who works for you that uses Coercive Power, it is your responsibility to get them the help they need, or in the event it is a personality trait (the fear is imagined or deeply ingrained), it may be time to let the person go.
All the best!
All the time!