Here are three common forms of coercion in the workplace:
Physical Coercion. The large, menacing employee or boss uses size or physical ability as a form of intimidation. Many employees, who fear the humiliation of being intimidated more than being beaten itself, defer to this individual. These individuals thrive in unregulated areas, where supervision is nominal and where there are no other forces to counter the aggressor.
Deceptive Coercion. This approach can be used by both large and small. The idea is to gain control over the other person through the manipulation of information. The most common application is the lie. Many people view lying as a simple character flaw. They miss the extent to which it is a tool of coercion. Individuals who cannot gain power through honest persuasion or through physical coercion use deception.
Manipulative Coercion. This approach may involve deception and even physical coercion, but it can also encompass the use of charisma and favoritism as well as the withholding and granting of privileges. As in the case of all of these approaches, the manipulator may rationalize the behavior by asserting that it is necessary to accomplish the mission. The charismatic manipulator can be especially effective as emotionally dependent followers suspend independent judgment in order to maintain the approval of the manipulator. Factions on teams may withhold approval from a co-worker
It is not unusual to find teams in which there are tacit alliances between coercive personalities. For example, a physically coercive person may be allied with a manipulator and both may use deception with each other and with outsiders.
Organizational success can be seriously determined by the degree to which physical coercion is banned, deception is scorned, and manipulation - which will always be with us to some degree - is minimized.