According to Patricia Neal, “A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.” So, in this context, the formative years of an individual have a reflective effect on his or her mental attitude and behavior. This is a widely-known and accepted fact. For example, an individual who has spent his childhood in a violent or aggressive environment will have an aggressive or violent streak to his personality. On other hand, individuals who belong to a quiet, peaceful, and secure environment turn out to be confident, secure, and balanced adults.
Positive reinforcement is the process whereby desirable behavior is encouraged by presenting a reward at the time of occurrence of such behavior. Positive reinforcement is a tried and tested method in what is known in psychology as ‘operant’ conditioning. It is widely studied and used in behavior analysis.
For example, when you acclaim an employee for doing a job effectively, you increase the likelihood of him/her doing that job well even in the future.
Some of the advantages of using positive reinforcement are:
- It can be successfully used to increase the frequency of a wide range of behaviors (positive and negative).
- It can be used to produce new behaviors.
- It can be effectively used in the classroom to help students identify their strengths and put them to optimum use to accomplish the tasks allotted to them.
Now, let’s look at some of the major factors of positive reinforcement.
Positive communication is an essential tool of positive reinforcement. As it builds a curious attitude when communicating with others, it lets the other person know you are interested in what they are saying. Additionally, it helps build self-esteem which, in turn, is the basis of self-confidence and individuality. At this point, it may be useful to know that an individual’s self-confidence is greatly influenced by the quality of interactions and the kind of relationships they share at home and in the workplace.
For example, consider a scenario between two employees that describes their communication level:
Richie is a receptionist at a private company, and Adams is her superior. The weekly reports made by Richie are really help Adams.
Now, let’s see how Adams communicates with Richie:
- Thanks, Richie for the report.
- Richie, this is fantastic work. I would really like to appreciate for your intelligent work.
Motivation is yet another important factor that highly impacts the use of positive reinforcement. It has the power to affect all aspects of life. Being positively motivated aids the growth, success, and overall well-being of a person. Moreover, it can also be successfully used for motivating other people.
For example, consider a scenario which differentiates the motivation levels of Louis:
Louis is a HR manager and John is an executive employee who is usually very punctual. Unfortunately, one fine morning, John oversleeps and arrives late to work by half an hour.
Now, let’s see both the motivating and demotivating responses of Louis toward John:
- John, your duty is to be on time at the office. It is unacceptable that you were late to work today.
- John, I really commend that you are usually very punctual, however, you were late to work today which caused some problems around the office. So, please don’t be late again.
Timing is critical to achieve the best results using positive reinforcement. The desired behavior needs to be rewarded immediately. A delay in rewarding the positive behavior will have no effect in reinforcing the desirable behavior since the time gap between the desirable behavior and recognition of the same can make or break the behavior.
For example, you can praise your employees for their excellent teamwork as soon as the project is completed.
Consistency is of the utmost importance. A particular behavior which may be considered positive or desirable and which has been rewarded, should stay in that category. Something that is considered “good” behavior today, should not be labeled otherwise tomorrow. Such inconsistencies can be counterproductive, lead to confusion in the employee’s mind and indecisiveness about acceptable behavior in future.
For example, every employee should maintain constant behavior and attitude in the workplace.
When thinking about positive reinforcement, always remember that the end result is to increase the behavior. If implemented properly, positive reinforcement is a simple technique that can help you change an individual’s behavior – usually, very quickly.