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Coercive Power in Leadership: Definition, Examples & Quiz

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Shawn Grimsley

In this lesson, you will learn what coercive power is and some key concepts relating to it. You will also have an opportunity to reinforce your knowledge with a short quiz that follows the lesson.

We also recommend watching Positional Power: Legitimate, Coercive & Reward Power and Power Types in Leadership: Formal and Personal

Definition

Coercive power is the ability of a manager to force an employee to follow an order by threatening the employee with punishment if the employee does not comply with the order.

Concepts

The most important concept to understand about coercive power is that uses the application of force. It seeks to force or compel behavior rather than to influence behavior through persuasion. Examples of coercive power include threats of write-ups, demotions, pay cuts, layoffs, and terminations if employees don't follow orders. In order to be effective, the manager must be able to follow through on the threat. If failure to comply doesn't result in punishment, threat of punishment becomes meaningless and even counterproductive because employees may cease to respect the legitimacy of the manager's authority.

Disadvantages

While coercive power may be effective in the short-term, it can create serious problems for organizational effectiveness in the long run. Coercion tends to lower job satisfaction, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise - who likes being intimidated on a daily basis? If you are not satisfied with your job, you will bail as soon as possible for a better one. Constant turnover is costly, and it also hurts productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. Additionally, some theorist argue that coercive leadership also stymies creativity and innovation because you're not much interested in taking risks and being creative if you live in an environment of fear and insecurity.

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