Coercive Power and Reward Power Tactic (Part 2 of 3)

Do you understand the different types of power that can offer rewards, obedience or be used as a threat? Learn the fundamentals of the reward power and coercive power tactics.

In the preceding article we examined Parity in Power, (Parity in Power Part I of III) and situated the five different types of Interpersonal Power that are at play. We examined Legitimate Power in considerable detail.

In this portion, we will proceed to examine the next two kinds of Interpersonal Power - Reward Power and Coercive Power.
- Legitimate power
- Reward power
- Coercive power
- Expert power
- Referent power

Reward power

Reward Power can be gained from one's capacity to reward compliance. Reward power is used to support legitimate power. When someone is rewarded or might receive a potential reward such as through recognition, a good job assignment, a pay rise, or additional resources to complete a job, the employee may respond in kind by carrying through with orders, requests and directions, according to Gibson et al. (1991:331).

Rewards often comprises financial remuneration. They can also be intangible as well. Studies have revealed that verbal approval, encouragement and praise can very often be very positive substitutes in place of tangible rewards. Experiments involving positive reinforcement and behaviour modification in the classroom or work setting revealed that verbal rewards could consist of: ' extreme politeness', ' compliments', and 'praise' for past behaviour.

Non-verbal rewards might comprise: "Giving individuals in the other party more space at the table" Nodding of the head to signal your acceptance and that you approve; "Eye contact to indicate attention" and "By using open and non-aggressive gestures to designate acceptance and respect."

Rewards could also consist of verbal promises to gain financially by establishing a relationship.

Ingratiation is occasionally referred to as the 'art of flattery'. It is one example of the use of reward power in social settings. Friedman, Carlsmith and Sears (1974) provide a fascinating synopsis on the affect of ingratiation in interpersonal situations. Many of us realize that if other people like us, they will be more prepared to perform favours for us. On the other hand, we are also aware that they will be less likely or carry out actions if they dislike us. " Individuals seeking to increase others' liking of them can convince these persons that they share basic values or are similar in other ways. "

The most common tactic of ingratiation in negotiation is to complement the abilities of the people whom you wish to influence. This tactic, frequently referred to as "other enhancement" often entails the use of flattery - the exaggerated praise of others. Such a tactic usually succeeds because people tend to like the flatterer who is praising them.

It is common that the use of reward power seems to be very effective, particularly in the longer term. Reward power is occasionally combined with coercive power, although the two different forms of power can be subject to semantic confusion. It is important to understand coercive power before comparing it with and measuring it against reward power.

Coercive Power

Coercive power is the opposite of reward power. It is the ability of the power holder to remove something from a person or to punish them for not conforming with a request.

For example:

Coercive power could take the form of a threatened strike action by a labour union; the threat of preventing promotion or transfer of a subordinate for poor performance; it could be a threat of litigation; it could be at threat of non-payment; it could be the threat to go public; and it could even be a threat of physical injury.

All of these practices have one vital element in common - the element of fear. The fear that these threats will be used is called coercive power.

It has frequently been noted that the use of coercive power can leave behind its share of casualties. Although this is likely the reason why coercive power can be effective, it is generally of short duration and can also generate a lengthy amount of dispute in its aftermath. Parties to an integrative negotiation pay the costs before the actual agreement is reached, while parties involved in a war often pay the cost later (and in many instances, for centuries after the war has been fought).

In the period from 1933 to 1945, millions of innocent people were executed in Nazi Germany's gas chambers. The demise of this multitude was arranged by a single individual who issued a series of commands to carry out these horrific orders.

The cement that enjoins command to action is obedience. The psychologist Stanley Milgram (1963) states that obedience is the psychological mechanism that links individual actions to political purpose. It is the dispositional adhesive that ties people to systems of authority. Human history has seen a multitude of atrocities because of our tendency to obey orders. Several historians have observed that crimes against humanity has occurred more often as a result of obedience than due to any other form of rebellion.

The trouble that stems from obedience to authority is almost as old as humanity itself. This is one of the reasons why authority figures can be extremely effective when negotiating with subordinates.

Comparing reward power and coercive power

In spite of how coercive power can have an incredible short-lived effect, it should appear fairly obvious that reward power is, according to Lewicki et al (1985:247), far more likely to generate coveted results, with less close observation and control than coercive power.

Yet, the use of coercion in negotiations is a common occurrence. When simple persuasion fails, emotions erupt, when self-esteem is under attack, or when avarice eclipses the understanding of the application of its potential cost, the use of coercion through threats and hostile language will likely increase. During these moments the emotional expression of anger or feelings of frustration and impotence may engulf the rational perception and benefits provided by reward strategies.

[ Part I ] [ Part II ] [ Part III ]

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2 of 16 people found the following comment useful:

A subtle mix of propoganda - 2013 Jul 14
Commentator: Darin (United States - Washington)

""In the period from 1933 to 1945, millions of innocent people were executed in Nazi Germany's gas chambers."

What about the 1945 US-Britain secret agreement of Operation Keelhaul where some 8 million anit communist Russians, Ukrainians, and ethnic Germans from the Black Sea were sent to their deaths in Russian gulags in exchange for Stalin sending his army east to attack Japan?

Yeah, I thought so."

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3 of 4 people found the following comment useful:

Well explained - 2013 Jun 4
Commentator: Nina (Australia - Victoria)

"Thank you"

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5 of 5 people found the following comment useful:

wonderful piece - 2012 Nov 17
Commentator: dammy (Nigeria)

"It gave me a very good understanding of both powers. Great job"

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5 of 7 people found the following comment useful:

Distinction between reward power and coercive power - 2012 Aug 1
Commentator: Johnny (Namibia - Windhoek)

"What an easier explanation of the distinction between this two powers. "

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7 of 10 people found the following comment useful:

class assignment - 2011 Oct 30
Commentator: Sarah (Canada)

"im doing a history geography assignment on coercion and this was one of the most helpful answers =)"

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20 of 22 people found the following comment useful:

Good Explanation - 2010 Oct 29
Commentator: Sarrod (India - Maharashtra)

"I really liked your explanation on types of power. I am wondering if you have similar analogies for referent, legitimate, and expert power as mentioned by French and Raven (1968). I would like to read your take on the remaining types."

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18 of 20 people found the following comment useful:

understanding coercive power - 2010 Sep 23
Commentator: Leanda (Australia - South Australia)

I needed some help with understanding coercive power and I was unaware of the other categories of power prior to this article. It was easy to comprehend, and answered my question for Uni discussion board participation, so appreciate it immensely."

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9 of 17 people found the following comment useful:

Understanding the explaination - 2009 Nov 16
Commentator: Moedjadi (Indonesia - Jawa Barat)

"Your explanation about reward power and coercive power is clear and easy to be understood. Some books explaining of those powers is rather deference that make some students difficult to understand."

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