Authoritarianism Comes with a Huge Price

On May 11, 2017, The British Psychological Society published an article by Alex Fradera titled Pressuring employees to be do-gooders can backfire badly which concludes as follows:

“All in all, the evidence suggests that obliging people to be better citizens encourages them to relax their intrinsic moral guidelines and engage in negative behaviour they would otherwise tend to avoid.

It’s so tempting for organisations to expect more and more from their employees – and so much harder for employees to resist when they are being asked to do socially desirable things like ‘help out’ and ‘think about the organisation’. But by making such behaviours expected or even mandatory, we can box people into regulated systems that rob these activities of their intrinsic motivation and instead make them into burdens, burdens that can boomerang back on the organisation and even beyond. Demanding we behave like saints risks turning us into sinners.”

Fradera’s article was based upon research conducted by Kai Chi Yam, Anthony C. Klotz, Wei He, and Scott J. Reynolds and set forth in an article they published on January 12, 2016 in the Academy of Management Journal titled From Good Soldiers to Psychologically Entitled: Examining When and Why Citizenship Behavior Leads to Deviance.

While the research on this subject as it pertains to the workplace environment may be relatively new, it’s by no means suprising.

Although I have been a practicing attorney for over a quarter century, there are a great many reasons why I shifted my practice to mediation a decade ago. One reason has to do with my knowledge of issues with regard to compliance of court orders rendered after hearings and trials, as well as “agreements” reached through the threat of court intervention

The following is the Introduction for a Chapter I authored titled A Comparison of Dispute Resolution Methods Available in Family Law Matters that was included in Inside the Minds: Strategies for Family Law in California, 2013 ed., published by Aspatore Books, a Thompson Reuters business, July 2013:

Conflicts of any type can be resolved through either force or diplomacy. In legal disputes, parties try to exert force on each other through the courts. ‘We call it an adversary system, but a better term would be a coercion system. The parties bash each other in order to persuade the judge to coerce the other person to do something they do not want to do,’ says family court Judge Bruce Peterson of Hennepin County, Minneapolis. The threat of having a judge coerce ‘a person to do something they do not want to do’ unless they agree to certain terms, is itself coercive.

Diplomacy, on the other hand, works through mediation and other forms of consensual dispute resolution (CDR). As the name implies, the parties to such processes resolve their conflicts through mutual consent, without obtaining such consent through coercion. 

What I know about compliance with regard to court orders and agreements reached through the adversarial process was set forth in the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution Report to the House of Delegates in February 2006 by Robyn C. Mitchell, Chair ABA Section of Dispute Resolution, as follows:

“Solutions achieved through negotiation are frequently more acceptable to each side because they result from negotiation rather than adjudication. Thus, the settlements reflected in consent decrees can be more durable, achievable, and likely to be realized than court orders after trial.”

Furthermore, my interest in family law has far more to do with what does and doesn’t work based upon human nature than what may or may not happen in a courtroom based upon man-made law applied by imperfect human beings with personal biases, beliefs, assumptions, expectations and values

This is particularly true, considering my belief that “legal justice” should never be confused with “fundamental fairness.” In fact, in 2013, Huffington Post published an article of mine titled The Grave Mistake of Confusing Concepts of Justice and Fairness With the Law

As such, it should be of no surprise that I’ve had a Psychology and Family Law Column in the San Gabriel Valley Psychological Association’s newsletter for almost a decade and a blog in Psychology Today since November 2016. In fact, when Psychology Today included me as part of its “expert community,” I was informed that “[my] work is certainly psychologically-minded.”

I have learned a great deal over the years as a result of my interest in psychology and human nature, which I find very useful both in my practice and in life.

One such piece of information was set forth in an article by Gwen Dewar, Ph.D. published in Parenting Science titled Authoritarian parenting: How does it affect the kids? The article provides in part as follows:

“Authoritarian parents might see themselves as champions of morality. But, as noted above, studies suggest that kids with authoritarian parents are actually less advanced when it comes to self-regulation and moral reasoning (Dekovic and Jannsens 1992; Jannsens and Dekovic 1997; Karreman et al 2006; Piotrowski et al 2013).

Moreover, kids from authoritarian families may be more likely to “tune out” their parents as they get older.

For instance, when researchers tracked American middle and high school studies over 18 months, they found that kids who identified their parents as more authoritarian were more likely to reject their parents as legitimate authority figures. They were also more likely to engage in delinquency over time (Trinker et al 2012).”

A number of years ago, my esteemed colleague, Pauline Tesler told me the following:

“The most significant variable affecting whether a divorce will be managed well or whether it will slide into high conflict litigation is who the parties select as their lawyers.

Lawyers who understand the nature of human conflict and who aim to help people resolve it, right from the start, handle their cases entirely differently from lawyers who may have reasonably positive views of mediation, but who treat it as just another way of getting to a legal-template deal and who see their job as preparing for maximum measurable gain at trial.

Family law clients are going to be distressed, angry, fearful, subject to spasms of vengeful intention and other dysfunctions. Their lives are coming unglued. Therefore, choosing the right attorney is one of the most important decisions a person can make. The lawyer needs to be able to hold up for the client an alternate possibility of working from hope rather than fear.

You can lead a lawyer to consensual dispute resolution, but you can’t make him or her into a facilitator of deep resolution without changing the lawyers’ understanding of what it means to be a divorce lawyer, venturing into the sacred space of primary pair bonds unraveling.”

While I never have been good at remembering names and faces, I have an incredibly keen memory when it comes to information and concepts. I am also quick to spot patterns and issues, which may or may not relate to my belief that there are few coincidences and that almost everything happens for a reason. Irrespective, these strengths have clearly aided me in finding links between things. 

One such connection I have made has to do with coercion and human nature. The fact that “pressuring employees to be do-gooders can backfire badly” is by no means surprising because the same is true of everything in life.

Regardless of my knowledge and skill set, I have a great desire to learn and sharpen my skills. Although the focus of my practice is now mediation, peacemaking, and conflict resolution consulting, I am a licensed attorney and believe that what Tesler said about lawyers applies equally well to mediators, peacemakers, and conflict resolution consultants. Those of us who aim to help people resolve their conflicts can never know enough about what makes people tick and the nature of human conflict.

The reason the following quote from an article by Laura Meherg of the Wicker Park Group titled Be the Effective Team Your Clients Need resonates so deeply with me is because it’s consistent with everything I’ve learned over my almost fifty two years on this Earth:

“Persuading – The art of persuasion is not about nagging, arguing or bullying.  It’s about empathy and active listening.” 

There are very legitimate reasons why I’ve said that “empathy is the key to conflict resolution” and that lack of empathy is the source of great conflict and those reasons have to do with human nature and the nature of human conflict.

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