Is fear the best motivator?

I’m not sure if it’s the abundance of lawyer shows on TV or just adolescent regression, but there is an overwhelming impression that threats get us what we want. It is ironic that no one likes to be threatened, but so many people believe that inspiring fear is the fastest route from A to Z. But is fear really the best motivator?

It depends. If fear leaves your opponent without a choice, AND you have no reason to worry about a future relationship, than fear might be your best option. This is especially true if you have no other leverage. But threats can often backfire. For example, if you go right for the big threat and your bluff is called, will you be satisfied with the outcome?

Using threats and/or fear is often a decision based on emotion rather than reason. It’s most often done when the motivator is anger or revenge. Employment law claims are ripe with emotion. For many of our clients, their work is part of their identity. They spend the majority of their waking hours dedicated to building their careers. When that rug is pulled out from under them, it’s is understandable to default to revenge mode. Those who get past that mode quickly though are usually the ones to move on, get a better job and find some joy in the separation. Those who hold on to the anger take longer to find a new opportunity, waste a lot of time dreaming about revenge and are usually dissatisfied no matter how great the outcome. Even a large settlement is unlikely to inflict much pain on a huge corporation. But in most cases, fear tactics result in smaller financial benefits.

Settlement is about compromise. Compromise typically means that each side gets some of what they want and gives up some of what they want. Many people say that the sign of a good settlement is that both sides are unhappy. But, the truth is that a sign of a great settlement is when both sides are mostly happy. People are usually more generous when they are making a decision from a positive perspective rather than out of fear or after being cornered.

In my opinion, rather than the default tactic, fear should be the last resort. What do you think?