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Coercive Power in the Workplace

During chaotic situations, with numerous unknowns emerging, the proposition of coercing employees and pressuring them to conform to the leader’s vision may appear highly attractive. It would enable the team to work toward the same goal together as a unified body, at least temporarily, until the chaos passed. However, this choice’s effect on performance would be highly detrimental and counterproductive to the stated purpose. It is beneficial to have a variety of perspectives available to avoid being blindsided by an unforeseen factor in a chaotic situation. This diversity of views is why transformational leaders foster creativity in employees with low uncertainty avoidance to maximize their performance instead of suppressing it (Wang, 2020). Effective leaders navigate the chaos instead of opposing it and risking the further degradation of the situation. Those who coerce followers into conformity and following their vision undermine the team’s ability to do so.

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Another type of situation where coercion may appear attractive is unmotivated employees who move the organization away from its objectives. The approach is the simplest method of making them align with the goal, which is why it has been used extensively in the past. With that said, employees have considerably more freedom to choose their job today, which they may choose to exercise if not committed and threatened with negative reinforcement. As such, forcing subordinates into conformity is not necessarily a productive approach that will achieve its intended goal. Moreover, as Northouse (2018) notes, coercion serves the leader’s purposes rather than the followers’ or the organization’s, running contrary to the idea of moving toward a shared objective. As such, in addition to being potentially ineffective, coercion has the potential of making the situation worse in this case, as well. However challenging it may be, leaders have to seek other methods of creating order and shared commitment in their teams.

Reference

Northouse, D. P. G. (2018). Leadership: Theory and practice (8th ed.). SAGE Publications.

Wang, P. (2020). Core job characteristic and uncertainty avoidance: Into the black box of transformational leadership effect on creativity. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 54(2), 311-322.

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