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No. 34 – How to Gain Cooperation

July 27, 2011

Several years ago, during an outage at a nuclear power plant, a contract worker refused to be surveyed at the step-off pad when returning to the locker room from the containment area. The staff health physicist, monitoring workers at that point, tried to persuade the worker to stop for frisking. When the worker still refused, the health physicist grabbed the man and threw him against the wall. After that incident the plant management asked, “Are there ways to gain cooperation without physical violence?” The following four steps were offered to help gain cooperation from someone who is difficult or reluctant to cooperate.

1. Establish Common Goals

The first step in gaining cooperation is to identify common goals or areas of agreement. The worker had some goal in mind for returning to the locker room that took priority over the step-off pad procedure. The health physicist had a duty to frisk all workers. Both had a common goal of doing their jobs without hassle from each other. However, to establish the goals in common will require dialogue.

2. Engage and Involve

Gently confronting the other person’s behavior and its impact on you will set the stage for gaining cooperation. Spelling out your goals and the consequences of his behavior for both of you may help. For the example, the health physicist could explain that the worker’s refusal to follow step-off pad procedures will mean that the health physicist has to write a report which will be a hassle for both of them. He could also point out the advantage of frisking now versus having to collect the worker’s feces in a bag for week and ask the worker which he prefers?

3. Position for the Best Deal

Showing the worker that complying with step-off pad procedures is doing both of you a favor, is more likely to gain cooperation than demands or threats. When the worker knows that his behavior will lead to undesirable consequences for both of you, he is more likely to comply.

4. Compliment

To assure continuing cooperation, it will help to acknowledge the worker’s compliance with a sincere compliment. Recognizing the other person’s needs and showing appreciation for their change in behavior to accommodate your needs will go a long ways towards achieving further cooperation.

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