Positive Reinforcement: A Boulevard of Reward and Recognition

Positive Reinforcement: A Boulevard of Reward and Recognition

Positive Reinforcement: A Boulevard of Reward and Recognition

Positive reinforcement, in general, occurs when a certain type of incentive is offered after an action or behavior and that behavior is further encouraged, as a result. It has many forms that are both tangible and intangible.

  • Concrete Reinforcer: This is tangible i.e. a gift in the form of a thing
  • Social Reinforcer: This is a responsive gesture or action e.g. a shrug, nod or hug
  • Activity Reinforcer: This is a chance to engage oneself in an interactive and fun activity.

Positive reinforcement at the workplace demands much more advanced reinforcers, one of which is RAP. Recognition, Appreciation and Praise (RAP) is very important to let employees know how much they are being valued and respected within a Company. Most organizations overlook this and take their employees for granted. Here are a few tried and tested techniques that promote positive reinforcement:

  • Emphasize and highlight the positives: Instead of exhausting an individual by expressing annoyance and disappointment, mitigating reviews and delivering them along with an affirmative and encouraging note will help stabilize productivity in the long run.
  • Unbolt the doors of communication: It is obvious that being a manager, one has to deal with multiple tasks-both simple and complex-which sometimes may lead to overlooking people on the inside. It’s most important to attend to and press on group discussions and act as a coherent mediator. This way, employees feel connected, appreciated and depended upon.
  • Clearing nepotism: Favoritism at work or school or anywhere is unavoidable, but noticeable. Partiality always creates discrimination and induces negative reinforcement. Hence, the feeling of being biased should be left alone and a fair game should be played.
  • Match the talent to the job at hand: Team excellence is essential for maximum productivity but it can be so only when it is rightly handled. Choosing the right expertise and making a quick switch of responsibilities will enhance team spirit and result in the maximum yield.
  • Persuade employees to self-construct solutions: It is always appreciable to let an individual make his own decisions. Offering a constructive advice in case of a problem and allowing the individual to self-develop from available resources would certainly motivate the employee to feel appreciated.
  • Professionalism via communication: Maintaining professionalism in every way is vital in the corporate world. If an employee is recruited, he has, for sure, deserved to be there. Hence, professionalism should be delivered most by means of communication. Sounding parental and being domineering would trigger negative reinforcement within the organization.

The above list highlights the simple ways along the boulevard of reward and recognition, which are being overlooked. Positive reinforcement can be achieved by recognition, appreciation, praise and gratitude. To make the most out of positive reinforcement, RAP should be:

  • Heartfelt
  • Precise
  • Direct and instantaneous
  • Frequent
  • Personalized
  • Different and indiscriminate
  • Seldom combined with a tangible reward

As dynamic and powerful as RAP might sound, the extent of its impact is based on how it is being adept.

Do share your thoughts on the same.

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  • Michael J. Spangle

    For Management, the bottom line of all training and other forms of communication regarding management’s expectations is performance improvement. In order to accomplish this it is necessary to blend the appropriate amounts of both positive and negative feedback. If the feedback is exclusively negative it destroys morale. If it is exclusively positive then behaviors that need correcting don’t get corrected and the significance of the positive feedback fades. As human beings, we discern differences much better than we measure absolute values. So Management needs to measure out positive feedback in appropriate measure.

  • By Invitation:

    Positive reinforcement of negative behaviour is a disincentive to improve. However, if you are going to provide positive reinforcement, it must be tailored to the individual.

    There is an old saying, “Praise to the face is a disgrace.” I prefer a quiet “well done.” I had a boss once, years ago, from whom I sought some feedback on a job I just completed. He said, “Don’t worry, if you screwed up, I would have told you.”

    That was one of four complements he’d paid me in 3 years. Those complements meant more than a boxful of smiley-face key chains and pat on the back in front of my co-workers.



  • Nilda Gonzalez

    Most supervisors believe that positive reinforcement of a job done well is not necessary because that is what is expected from employees — we expect them to do their job and at least meet expectations. However, it is when expectations are surpassed that recognition, appreciation and praise come into play. Employers and supervisors should find ways to provide some kind of RAP when special events that require extraordinary efforts are executed extraordinarily. The cost of providing RAP to an employee might be, let’s say, five minutes of your time, as valuable as it might be. However, for the employee, a word of praise even in private, signifies meeting the person’s basic need for recognition. It was sad to read Slim Fairview’s comment regarding his/her experience: “Don’t worry, if you screwed up, I would have told you.” Supervisors should be generous with praise, but, as Michael says, “Management needs to measure out positive feedback in appropriate measure.” Our challenge is to do so honestly and equally as needed. As managers, we need to know who among our staff really need the RAP and who do not need as much. But everyone likes to be told they are needed and that their work has contributed to the company’s success.

  • Management is all about facilitating others and empowering them to perform at top productivity. Such performance will not be possible without motivating those who have to perform and you cannot motivate anyone appropriately without caring for them and caring for them means you reinforce and recognize what they are doing effectively and also indicating to them what they need to do better to become more effective and feel better about themselves. This is not theory, I have managed people for close to 30 years and yes, I have experimented 🙂 — this always works best in the long run. — Good topic. If you don’t sincerely enjoy teaching others how to get up when they fall, don’t manage people.

  • Such a program requires training and guidelines. If reenforcement is overused it becomes diluted and even demeaning after a period of time.
    If you have established a timeline for a project and the team hits the milestones on time praise should not be given as they have performed as expected. If the team completes a phase of the project ahead of schedule and on or under budget, then they have exceeded expectations and praise is desired and should be given.
    Praise and rewards should only be given when expectations are exceeded if a manager is to preserve the value of them.

    The other problems that I see is for managers to try to set their people up for praise by given them certain tasks to complete. However, they do this with disregard to the persons strengths and weaknesses and will normally err to the side of the persons weakness and the intent fails miserably.

  • Recognition, appreciation and praise, while I agree are important, only work if they are genuine. Employees who have even the slightest doubt about their position in an organization or their ability to perform well are looking for this type of reinforcement but if it comes across as lip service management is actually doing more harm than good.

    An effective way of ensuring employees take the praise for its intention is to first solidify a relationship of trust between the manager and the employee, then give clear and relevant examples of the employee’s work. Doing this will enable two things: open the employee’s mind to what the manager is saying because there is trust between them and highlight the fact that management is listening and paying attention to what the employee actually does.