In contrast to reward power, coercive power seeks to penalize a particular behavior or action. This form of power relies on implementing programs that instill fear to change behavior. This has been shown to be an effective approach to seeking short term solutions, however in the long run it can create a negative and unethical corporate environment. An example of coercive power may be penalizing employees of a call center if they don’t keep their phone calls to a 10 minute maximum. This assumes you have a numeric system in place to quantify calls and evaluate employees based on this particular feature. If they have a ratio of calls that go beyond this maximum you may instill a point system that subtracts from their overall value, and a program that states if an employee “x” number of negatives they may be fired for the inability to maintain your standards of operating.
A positive aspect of this program is it will incent call center employees to quickly find solutions to customer problems, which will increase their capacity to answer more calls. A negative impact this program may have is that employees will be watching time as they answer calls and those calls that aren’t resolved quickly may cause employee to generate faulty solutions, or worse, they may abruptly end a call when no solution is reached within a given timeframe to avoid the negative mark on their evaluation; creating an angry customer because that customer may have to go through the phone cycle again to reach another customer service representative. Additionally, if there are several managers that oversee their own department within the call center, it may become a corporate norm for those managers to instill an “end calls at 10 minutes at all costs” attitude, creating an office environment norm.
A key to taking this approach is to analyze possible negative outcomes of implementing a coercive program, then ensure you establish a way to control, or at least assess, those possible negative outcomes. If you are instilling a program to fix one problem, but it lends itself to fostering new problems; it’s probably not a solution you want to implement.
Other Types of Power