2023 GS4 Answer

Q. In the context of work environment, differentiate between ‘coercion’ and ‘undue influence’ with suitable examples.

Question from UPSC Mains 2023 GS4 Paper

Model Answer: 

In any work environment, ethical behavior and fair treatment of employees are paramount. Two concepts that come into play in this context are ‘coercion’ and ‘undue influence’. Both these terms refer to situations where an individual or a group uses their power or position to manipulate others into acting against their will or best interests. However, they differ in their methods and implications.


Coercion refers to the act of forcing someone to act in a certain way by using threats, intimidation, or any other form of pressure or force. In a work environment, coercion can take many forms. For instance, a manager might threaten to terminate an employee’s employment unless they agree to work overtime without additional pay. This would be an example of coercion because the manager is using their authority and the threat of job loss to force the employee into complying with their demands.


1. Explicit Threats: Coercion often involves explicit threats. For example, a boss might threaten to fire an employee if they refuse to do something that is not part of their job description.

2. Physical or Emotional Pressure: Coercion might also involve physical or emotional pressure. An employee might be coerced into signing a contract under the threat of physical harm or emotional distress.

3. Legal Implications: Coercion is illegal in many jurisdictions, including India. It can lead to severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

Undue Influence

Undue influence, on the other hand, involves manipulating someone by exploiting a relationship of trust, dependency, or authority. It is more subtle than coercion and often harder to prove. In a work environment, undue influence might involve a superior using their position to persuade an employee to act in a certain way, not through threats, but by exploiting their authority or the employee’s trust or dependency.

Undue Influence - Manipulation by exploiting trust, dependency, or authority

1. Exploitation of Trust or Authority: For example, a manager might use their position to persuade an employee to take on additional work without extra pay. The employee might agree, not because they are threatened, but because they trust the manager or feel obligated due to their lower position in the company hierarchy.

2. Subtle Manipulation: Undue influence often involves subtle manipulation. The person exerting the influence might not make any explicit threats or demands, but instead subtly manipulate the other person into doing what they want.

3. Legal Implications: Like coercion, undue influence can also have legal implications. In India, it is considered a form of harassment and can lead to legal action.


Both coercion and undue influence are unethical and potentially illegal practices in a work environment. They both involve the misuse of power to manipulate others into acting against their best interests. However, they differ in their methods and implications. Coercion involves the use of threats or force, while undue influence involves the exploitation of trust or authority. In both cases, it is essential for organizations to have policies in place to prevent such behavior and protect their employees’ rights and interests.

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