Compliance Without Pressure for Minimal Income Policy Management

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Abstract

In a field study for a French public organization, 3 strategies designed to enhance attendance at meetings were compared. Recipients of a minimum income allowance receive invitation letters to orientation meetings; these letters usually emphasize coercion and threaten to withdraw their allowance. This approach has limitations: the participation rate is poor, and the consequences are detrimental for both the organization and the beneficiaries. To overcome those difficulties, we tested alternative ways of promoting compliance without pressure and influence. The first strategy involved sending the traditional peremptory invitation letter; the second strategy involved sending a new version of the letter that emphasized commitment factors and freedom evocation (“the binding mail technique”); and the third strategy involved behaviorally involving the beneficiaries by a combination of binding communication, level of action identification, and freedom evocation before the traditional letter was sent. Results showed that the use of compliance-gaining procedures led the nonattendance rate to diminish from 76% (the peremptory letter) to 57% with the binding mail, and to 33% for the combined techniques. These impressive results, however, are tempered somewhat by the fact that a study in a second agency yielded nonsignificant effects, with nonattendance rates at approximately the same level in all conditions (respectively 52%, 41%, and 43%). Results are discussed in light of commitment theory, social identity theory, and behavioral science; further research is proposed and the adoption of a “binding identities” meta-theoretical perspective advocated.

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