This study focuses on why people may resort to coercive tactics. We tested the proposition that considerations of utility and legitimacy mediate effects of a powerholder's competence and reward structure on the use of coercion. Results showed that in general coercive tactics are employed less often than softer tactics, that coercive tactics are used more by more competent individuals than by less competent individuals, and that coercive tactics are used more often when the revenues of task performance benefited the agent of power than when they benefited both agent and target or when they benefited the target solely. Results identified perceived utility and perceived legitimacy as mediators of the decision to coerce the other or not. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.