The Reinforcement Theory

by Ankit Kumar
3 weeks ago

According to B.E.Skinner and his associates, The Reinforcement is the process which strengthens a certain type of behavior in an individual. Reinforcement Theory is a motivational theory that overlooks the internal state of the individual. This theory is a strong tool for analyzing controlling mechanism for an individual’s behavior. However, it does not focus on the causes of an individual’s behavior.

The Reinforcement theory has four pillars.

Positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcements the practice of rewarding the employee for his desirable. For example, when you praise an employee for doing a good job, you increase the likelihood of him/her doing that job very well again. Positive reinforcement both shapes behavior and enhances an employee’s self-image. It should clearly define and communicate the expected behavior and strengthen the connection between high performance and rewards. It should motivate effective workers to continue to do good work.  Rewarding increases the productivity of workers who conserve time and materials. When they successfully perform, feel self-confident and become eager to learn new techniques, take advanced training, and accept more responsibility. Rewarding the deserving employee will also produce more innovation, ideas. The leader should tolerate innovative failures as well. Employees who receive recognition for their achievements are more enthusiastic about their work, more cooperative, and more open to change. An appreciation would increase their job commitment and organizational loyalty.

To all the managers it is recommended to personalize and be realistic about the reinforcement. It should be specific, sincere, often and enforced immediately, unpredictably. And that is because Regular reinforcement comes to be expected and fails to motivate. The improvements are gradual but rewarding a small increment in improvement will make the improvements bigger. The reward should be proportionate to the importance of the behavior.

Negative Reinforcement: Negative reinforcement means removing something negative that is already there, to create a happy outcome. For example. .. Managers use negative reinforcement in the workplace to motivate employees and control their behavior in order to meet organizational goals. For Example:  If an employee hates the task, and he is very careless and is lazy about it, the leader will ask him not to take a turn anymore. The employee is rewarded for his negative behavior. So the employee was simply subtracted from the situation. The negative reinforcement simply means the removal or avoidance of the negative condition just to strengthen the behavior. Employers can use negative reinforcement in the workplace as a management tool to motivate employees and control their behavior by removing unfavorable conditions as long as the employees continue to perform as expected.

Negative reinforcement is the most effective way to strengthen the desired behavior when reinforces are presented immediately following a behavior. When a long period elapses between the behavior and the reinforces, the response is likely to be weaker. The frequency and schedule of using this reinforcement also play a major role in the strength of the response. Employers can use negative reinforcement in the workplace as a management tool to motivate employees and control their behavior by removing unfavorable conditions as long as the employees continue to perform as expected.

Punishment: Punishment is the motivational tool for imposing negative consequence for the goal of reducing or stopping someone’s undesirable behavior. The purpose is to encourage and enforce appropriate behavior as defined by a group, an organization, or society through the use of negative consequences. It used in behavioral analysis and in a specific kind of intentional behavior change known as operand conditioning. The difference between reinforcement and punishment is, reinforcement is used to increase desirable behavior, punishment is used to decrease undesirable behavior through the application of a negative consequence (positive punishment) or through the removal of something the person enjoys (negative punishment). Punishment can be used in a business context to prevent employees from doing something the organization or manager considers undesirable or wrong.

In organizations, punishment plays a vital role in shaping culture to be in line with operational expectations and in avoiding conflicts and negative outcomes both internally and externally. If employees clearly know what they are not supposed to do, they generally try to avoid doing it as prevention is a much cheaper and easier approach than waiting for something bad to happen. The punishment tools can include demotions, salary cuts, and terminations. Therefore, Preemptive education regarding rules and penalties for rule violation is common practice.

Extinction: The extinction motivation is carried out by removing a learned behavior by holding back a positive reinforcement or reward that has encouraged the behavior. This is done to end the behavior of an employee that he has learned over a given period. During a working pressure, the manager of an employee may award an employee for extra hours of work, but when the schedule slows down, he will stop approving overtime of the employee so that the behavior is forgotten and the positive reinforcement of overtime is withdrawn. This is done very carefully as the positive reinforcement is getting withdrawn in an unappreciated resulting in downgrading their morale and their productivity, which could definitely impact the business negatively.

For managers, the reinforcement theory can be an effective tool to give their star performers, a positive reinforcement or poor performers, a negative reinforcement. It can also be used to remove bad behavior and extinguish unwanted behavior. Since it is difficult to find a motivation system that works for all employee this theory focuses on an employee’s behavior and performance is good for managing a diverse group to achieve the desired results.


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