February 2012
Publication:
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

One of the most-pervasive debates in literature on managing people is whether using “hard” or “soft” approaches produces better organizational performance -- those seeking to influence behavior by pressuring or by nurturing. This paper examines this question in the context of a cross-organizational collaboration in English local government between police, probation, social work, and other organizations designed to reduce crime. Using a survey to gather data about cultural features of these collaborations and actual crime data, we find interaction effects between the joint presence of “hard” and “soft” cultural features in explaining crime reduction. Taking a phrase from pop psychology, it appears that cultures characterized by “tough love” perform better than those with only “hard” or “soft” features by themselves. We suggest that further research be conducted surrounding the relationship of the “tough love” construct to organizational performance.