Using Force

Why Using Force Does Not Work in Business or in Life

by Aug 10, 2021Business, Culture, Leadership

It is tempting to pull rank to drive short-term results, but you’ll pay for it in the long run.

Anyone who has ever been in a healthy relationship intuitively understands that forcing people to do something isn’t a recipe for sustainable success. While you might get someone to budge in the short term, you’ll eventually have to pay the full price for that decision.

Here’s an example of why using force does not work in life. Imagine a scenario where you push to have your spouse or significant other do something they don’t really want to do. You know as well as I do that eventually, you will have to do something to make things right after the fact. Whether it’s going to see that new art exhibit or eating at a vegan restaurant, you probably won’t enjoy the payback.

Seeking Balance

The same dynamic applies in business. I see people in leadership positions fall into this trap all the time. They pull rank and use their positional authority to force people to do something, and then scratch their heads when it all falls apart. Whenever you use force to make something happen, it’s almost like there is a universal law of physics that comes into play that leads to an equal and opposite reaction.

That’s why, when you build relationships in business, they need to be balanced if you want them to last for a long time. If you’re looking to make a deal with someone, for example, you have every incentive to make sure that it’s a win-win for both sides. Otherwise, if you force the deal in a way that gives you an advantage, the other party will do everything they can to try to balance the equation by screwing you on something like delivery charges or in some other way to get around the terms of the contract.

There is a camp of business leaders who think their job is to create the maximum advantage with every interaction. I am not saying one shouldn’t advocate their position strongly, but targeting advantage in all situations creates unbalanced deals. If you have ever been on the wrong side of an unbalanced deal, you know how terrible it feels.

My experience has been that when both parties feel like it’s a full win-win and when everyone feels like they’re getting something positive out of the deal, that’s when real magic can happen. The energy is positive, and the parties want to work together more.

Finding Win-Wins

The negative behavior here is trying to find a leverage point that can be used to force the other side to come to terms in your favor. The catch is that when you try to tip the balance to make sure you force a deal so that you win while the other party loses, you’ll pay the price.

Consider an example from a company I was working with that had a key employee leave the business. The worry from the company’s leadership was that this person was leaving to start his own business and that he might compete with them. But this employee had never signed a non-compete agreement with the company. That didn’t stop them from doing everything they could to try and make sure this employee would sign an agreement saying he wouldn’t compete with them. Force was applied with other agreements and attempting to link the various agreements on things he wanted to force him to agree on a non-compete.

Big mistake. Because this employee had no incentive to sign such an agreement, they quickly made him angry and turned him from a potential partner and someone who could have helped sell their product in the market into a true competitor who wanted to beat them in the market.

Rather than trying to find a true win-win scenario that allowed both the company and the employee to benefit, they chose to alienate him and all but ensure he would push their competitor’s products in the market instead of theirs. In the attempt to force an outcome, they got a negative outcome.

Know When to Walk Away

Obviously, there are going to be times when, during a negotiation, the other party might become unreasonable–when they see everything through the lens that they are somehow the wronged party even when they’re not. This can be very difficult ground to navigate, especially if you’re trying to find that win-win solution. Eventually, if the other person keeps pushing and pushing to the point that the deal becomes unbalanced from your point of view, you need to have the confidence to walk away knowing you tried to do the right thing.

The point is that you didn’t try to force the other party’s hand in a way that intentionally tipped the advantage your way. And that’s all you can do as you strive to avoid using force in business. Instead, your goal should always be to find that solution that allows everyone to win. That’s how you’ll fund long-term sustainable success in your personal life and in your business.