Social systems devise rules for member conduct and often specify punitive action for nonconformity. However, confronting and signaling the intent to punish a rule violator may be an inherently face-threatening and volatile situation. As such, in this paper we seek to add to the research aimed at minimizing the negative effects of confrontation. We conducted an experiment to examine the impact of linguistic cues and coercive potential on message categorization and on receiver perceptions of threat and face-sensitivity. Results suggest that threats might be considered a special class of warnings, distinguishable by a speaker-based locus of punishment Locus of punishment did not, however, impact perceptions of having been warned. These findings thus call into question the assumed parallelism between researcher conceptualizations of threats and warnings and those of typical language-users. Additionally, targets reported feeling less threatened and perceived more face-sensitivity, in cases when the speaker was not the source of punishment. Perceptions of threat were decreased when disclaimers were employed and where the message originated from a peer rather than an authority. Power of speech had an impact in ambiguous situations. Implications for researchers and practitioners are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Strategy and Management
- Management of Technology and Innovation