Force Versus Influence

When organizations are in a state of fear about profits and results, the go-to has been to turn to force to change employees’ behaviors. For example, force them to come into the office five days a week, attend more meetings, be monitored at their computer, etc.

The undertone is it’s my way or the highway. This use of force has worked for decades, if not centuries, as people have relied on the organization they work for to earn money.

Here’s what has now changed:

  • Greater importance on mental health
  • Greater intent to achieve work-life balance
  • Other ways to get paid, from starting your own business to the gig economy
  • Parenting that focuses on the growth of the child

I will stay with this parenting aspect because it isn’t being discussed but is essential. More and more of today’s parents are opting away from corporal punishment, which is about using physical force (a threat) to control their children. Interestingly, parents admit that their use of force is often accompanied by anger and overwhelm.  

Research has shown that corporal punishment was the norm in the ’70s and 80’s, with 77% of parents spanking their kids. In 2014, the rate declined to 49%. Today, an estimated 1/3 of parents spank their kids.  

The other 2/3rds of parents are learning skills to support them to influence their children away from certain behaviors and toward healthier choices. Certainly, it takes longer for parents to repeatedly reinforce the behaviors they are trying to influence in their kids. Yet, as exhausting as it can be, parents stick with it exactly because they want their children to feel that they have a choice in life and feel empowered about their choices. Of course, certain boundaries need to be in place to keep their kids safe, but overall influencing children so they can grow and make healthy choices is where most parents are leaning.  

Part of the reason for the decline in the use of corporate punishment is a greater understanding of the negative psychological impact on both the parent and child, increased options in the development of other parenting skills, and a cultural shift from demanding children to respect parents to parents developing respect by offering respect to their children.

Here’s why this matters to corporations:

  1. More parents demonstrate respect toward their children by allowing them to choose what is right for them, and these adult people will expect the same from their place of employment.  
  2. The more parents take the time to influence their child’s environment to one of health and growth, the more these adults will desire that type of work environment. Not because they are expecting too much but simply because it is healthy.
  3. As parents have taken the time to grow their skills to parent healthily, they expect corporations also to update their skills to shift from force to influence.

The difference between force and influence has a lasting impact on a corporation’s bottom line, as this will determine how your employees show up, including their intrinsic motivation, creativity, and productivity. Of course, corporations have to have boundaries as to what works for the company’s success. But, simultaneously, the boundaries created must be for the greater good, where employees’ needs influence decision-making.  

This expression of respect demonstrated through actions is the difference between being trained in psychological safety versus gaining the skills to live it within your organization. In addition, the younger the workforce becomes, the more they will expect the psychological safety of their work environment to respect them, offer choice, and support their growth, individually and professionally.

If you want to support your organization on how to walk your talk in creating psychological safety for employees while positively influencing their results, contact us at [email protected]. We will be excited to share the powerful results organizations receive through our training.

Warm Best,

Michelle Bersell

Psychotherapist and Founder of The International Institute for Emotional Empowerment (IIEE)