Reinforcement and also Behavioral ChangeWhat room the finest practices that organizations utilize come train employee in new job skills?

A central feature of many approaches to finding out is the concept of reinforcement. This ide dates from Thorndike’s law of effect, which, as mentioned earlier, claims that habits that is positive reinforced often tends to it is in repeated, whereas actions that is no reinforced will often tend not to be repeated. Hence, reinforcement have the right to be defined as something that causes a certain behavior to be repetitive or inhibited.

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Reinforcement matches Motivation

It is important to identify reinforcement indigenous the ide of employee motivation. Motivation, as explained in the next chapter, to represent a main psychological procedure that is largely cognitive in nature. Thus, motivation is largely internal—it is experienced through the employee, and also we have the right to see just subsequent manifestations of it in actual behavior. Reinforcement, on the other hand, is frequently observable and most frequently externally administered. A supervisor may reinforce what the or she considers desirable actions without knowing anything around the underlying engine that motivated it. Because that example, a at sight who has actually a habit of saying “That’s interesting” at any time she is presented with a new idea may be reinforcing development on the part of the subordinates there is no the at sight really understanding why this an outcome is achieved. The distinction between theories of an inspiration and reinforcement should be retained in mind once we study behavior modification and behavioral self-management later on in this chapter.

Strategies for behavior Change

From a managerial standpoint, number of strategies for behavioral adjust are available to facilitate learning in business settings. In ~ least 4 different varieties should be noted: (1) hopeful reinforcement; (2) avoidance learning, or negative reinforcement; (3) extinction; and (4) punishment. Each form plays a different role in both the manner in which and also extent come which learning occurs. Each will be considered separately here.

Positive Reinforcement. confident reinforcement consists of presenting someone with an attractive outcome complying with a desired behavior. As noted by Skinner, “A confident reinforcer is a economic stimulation which, when added to a situation, strengthens the probability of one operant response.”

B. F. Skinner, Science and Human Behavior (New York: Macmillan, 1953), p. 73.

A basic example of hopeful reinforcement is supervisory prayer for subordinates once they execute well in a certain situation. The is, a supervisor may praise one employee for being ~ above time repetitively (see (Figure)). This behavior-praise pattern may encourage the low grade to be on time later on in the hope of receiving added praise.

Strategies for behavioral Change


In order for a positive reinforcement to be reliable in facilitating the repeat of wanted behavior, several problems must it is in met. First, the reinforcer itself (praise) need to be valued by the employee. It would certainly prove ineffective in shaping behavior if employees to be indifferent to it. Second, the reinforcer should be strong tied to the wanted behavior. Receipt that the reinforcer by the employee should be straight contingent upon performing the desired behavior. “Rewards must result from performance, and also the greater the degree of power by one employee, the better should it is in his reward.”

W. C. Hamner, “Reinforcement Theory,” in H. L. Tosi and W. C. Hamner, eds., Organizational Behavior and also Management: A Contingency Approach (Chicago: St. Clair, 1977), p. 98.

that is vital to store in mind here that “desired behavior” represents actions defined through the supervisor, not the employee. Thus, for prayer to it is in a reinforcer, no only have to it it is in valued through the employee, however it must directly follow the preferred behavior and also should be more intense as the actions is closer come the best the supervisor has actually in mind. Praise thrown the end at random is unlikely to reinforce the desired behavior. Third, there must be ample occasion for the reinforcer to it is in administered following preferred behavior. If the reinforcer is tied to certain behavior that rarely occurs, then people will rarely be reinforced and also will probably not associate this actions with a reward. For example, if praise is only detailed for truly exceptional performance, climate it is i can not qualify to have a an effective impact on the preferred behavior. The is crucial that the performance-reward contingencies it is in structured so the they are easily attainable.

Avoidance Learning. A second technique of reinforcement is avoidance learning, or negative reinforcement. Avoidance learning refers to seeking to protect against an unpleasant problem or result by adhering to a wanted behavior. Employees find out to stop unpleasant instances by behaving in certain ways. If one employee appropriately performs a job or is continuous prompt in coming to work-related (see (Figure)), the supervisor may refrain from harassing, reprimanding, or otherwise awkward the employee. Presumably, the employee learns with time that engaging in correct habits diminishes admonition from the supervisor. In stimulate to preserve this condition, the employee proceeds to behave as desired.

Extinction. The principle of extinction suggests that undesired behavior will decline as a an outcome of a lack of confident reinforcement. If the perpetually tardy employee in the example in (Figure) consistently fails to obtain supervisory praise and is no recommended because that a salary raise, us would intend this nonreinforcement to cause an “extinction” of the tardiness. The employee might realize, albeit subtly, that being so late is no leading to desired outcomes, and she may try coming to job-related on time.

Punishment. Finally, a 4th strategy because that behavior change used by managers and also supervisors is punishment. Punishment is the administration of uncomfortable or adverse outcomes together a an outcome of undesired behavior. An example of the applications of punishment is for a supervisor to publicly reprimand or well an employee who is habitually crust (see (Figure)). Presumably, the employee would refrain from being tardy later on in stimulate to prevent such one undesirable outcome. The most commonly used punishments (along v the most typically used rewards) are shown in (Figure).

The use of punishment is without doubt one the the most controversial worries of behavior readjust strategies. Back punishment have the right to have positive work outcomes—especially if it is administered in an impersonal means and as soon as feasible after the transgression—negative consequences can also an outcome when employees one of two people resent the action or feel they room being cure unfairly. These negative outcomes from penalty are shown in (Figure). Thus, back punishment represents a potent pressure in corrective learning, the use must be carefully considered and implemented. In general, for punishment come be efficient the punishment need to “fit the crime” in severity, should be offered in private, and should be described to the employee.


Studies showcase that practically 50 percent of employee in the U.S. Workforce face bullying in ~ one point in time. All varieties of bullying, not simply discrimination or harassment, are important to consider.

Angela Anderson was working for a law school management council and also experienced bullying firsthand. Frequently her manager would yell at she in former of various other coworkers, and also it to be clear come Angela that she was no well-liked. Unfortunately it to be not just Angela that felt the wrath the this manager, who frequently handled interaction with other employees the very same way. Countless of the employees, including Angela, attempted come appease their bullying manager, but nothing would help. Someday Angela was threatened by she manager, and also before Angela could reach the HR department, she was fired. This instance is an extreme case, yet being may be to take recourse against unwanted and also disruptive employee behavior is an important action for any type of workplace manager.

What steps have the right to you take to ensure the your company can detract from employees’ bullying behavior?What actions need to an employee take if they are experiencing unwanted behaviors from an additional employee or manager?What other departments should be affiliated when developing a plan and also policies for exactly how to take care of unacceptable rectal behavior?

In summary, positive reinforcement and avoidance learning focus on bringing around the desired solution from the employee. With positive reinforcement the employee behaves in a certain means in order to gain wanted rewards, whereas v avoidance finding out the employee behaves in order to avoid particular unpleasant outcomes. In both cases, however, the actions desired by the super is enhanced. In contrast, extinction and punishment focus on supervisory attempts to mitigate the incidence that undesired behavior. The is, extinction and also punishment are commonly used to obtain someone to prevent doing something the supervisor no like. The does no necessarily follow the the separation, personal, instance will begin acting in the most desired, or correct, manner.

Often student have challenge seeing the difference between avoidance and extinction or in understanding just how either could have a significant impact on behavior. Two components are essential to store in mind. The an initial we will simply speak to the “history effect.” no being harassed might reinforce an employee’s prompt arrival at work-related if in the previous the employee had been harassed for being late. Arriving on time and thereby avoiding the past harassment would reinforce getting here on time. This exact same dynamic would hold true for extinction. If the employee had actually been praised in the previous for getting here on time, then arrived late and was not praised, this would serve to weaken the propensity to arrive late. The 2nd factor us will call the “social effect.” because that example, if you check out others harassed once they come late and also then you space not harassed once you come on time, this might reinforce your showing up at work-related on time. Again, this very same dynamic would host true because that extinction. If you had observed others being praised for showing up on time, then no receiving praise when you come late would certainly serve to weaken the propensity to come late.

From a managerial perspective, questions arise around which strategy that behavioral adjust is most effective. Advocates of behavioral adjust strategies, such as Skinner, prize that hopeful reinforcement combined with die out is the many suitable way to bring about desired behavior. There space several reasons for this emphasis on the positive method to reinforcement. First, back punishment deserve to inhibit or get rid of undesired behavior, it regularly does not administer information to the individual around how or in i m sorry direction come change. Also, the applications of penalty may cause the individual to become alienated indigenous the work-related situation, in order to reducing the opportunities that useful readjust can it is in effected. Similarly, avoidance learning tends to emphasize the negative; that is, people are teach to remain clear of certain behaviors, such as tardiness, for fear of repercussions. In contrast, it is felt the combining hopeful reinforcement through the use of extinction has actually the fewest undesirable side results and permits individuals to get the rewards castle desire. A positive method to reinforcement is believed by some to it is in the most reliable tool management has to bring about favorable changes in organizations.

Schedules the Reinforcement

Having examined four distinct strategies for behavioral change, we now turn to an check of the assorted ways, or schedules, the administering these techniques. As provided by Costello and Zalkind, “The rate with which discovering takes ar and also how lasting its effects will be is identified by the timing of reinforcement.”

T. W. Costello and also S. S. Zalkind, Psychology in Administration: A research study Orientation (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963), p. 193.

Thus, a understanding of the varieties of schedules of reinforcement is necessary to supervisors if they room to know just how to select rewards the will have actually maximum affect on employee performance. Although there are a range of ways in i m sorry rewards have the right to be administered, most approaches can be categorized right into two groups: consistent and partial (or intermittent) reinforcement schedules. A consistent reinforcement schedule rewards desired actions every time that occurs. For example, a manager could praise (or pay) employees every time they perform properly. With the time and source constraints most managers work under, this is frequently difficult, if no impossible. So, most managerial reward strategies operate on a partial schedule. A partial reinforcement schedule rewards desired actions at specific intervals, no every time desired habits is exhibited. Contrasted to continuous schedules, partial reinforcement schedules cause slower learning but stronger retention. Thus, finding out is generally more permanent. Four kinds that partial combine schedules deserve to be identified: (1) resolved interval, (2) addressed ratio, (3) change interval, and (4) variable ratio (see (Figure)).

Fixed-Interval Schedule. A fixed-interval reinforcement schedule rewards individuals at specified intervals for your performance, just like a biweekly paycheck. If employee perform also minimally, they are paid. This technique generally does not an outcome in high or sustained levels that performance since employees know that marginal performance generally leads come the very same level that reward as high performance. Thus, there is tiny incentive because that high effort and performance. Also, when rewards space withheld or suspended, extinction of desired habits occurs quickly. Plenty of of the recent project redesign efforts in establishments were prompted by recognition of the need for alternative strategies of an ideas rather than paying people on fixed-interval schedules.

Fixed-Ratio Schedule. The 2nd fixed schedule is the fixed-ratio schedule. Here the prize is administered just upon the completion of a given variety of desired responses. In various other words, rewards room tied to performance in a proportion of rewards to results. A typical example the the fixed-ratio schedule is a piece-rate pay system, whereby employees space paid because that each unit of calculation they produce. Under this system, performance promptly reaches high levels. In fact, follow to Hamner, “The an answer level here is significantly greater than that obtained under any of the interval (time-based) schedules.”

top top the an unfavorable side, however, performance declines sharply when the rewards space withheld, as with fixed-interval schedules.

Variable-Interval Schedule. making use of variable combine schedules, both variable-interval and also variable-ratio reinforcements are administered at random times the cannot it is in predicted by the employee. The employee is normally not aware of once the next evaluation and reward duration will be. Under a variable-interval schedule, rewards are administered in ~ intervals the time that are based upon an average. For example, an employee may understand that on the average her power is evaluated and rewarded around once a month, yet she does not know when this occasion will occur. She does know, however, that it will occur sometime during the interval of a month. Under this schedule, effort and also performance will normally be high and fairly stable over time due to the fact that employees never recognize when the review will take it place.

Variable-Ratio Schedule. Finally, a variable-ratio schedule is one in i beg your pardon rewards space administered just after one employee has actually performed the desired actions a variety of times, with the number transforming from the management of one reward come the next but averaging gradually to a details ratio of variety of performances come rewards. For example, a manager may determine that a salesperson will receive a bonus because that every 15th new account sold. However, instead of administering the bonus every 15th revenue (as in a fixed-interval schedule), the manager may vary the variety of sales the is necessary for the bonus, from perhaps 10 sales because that the first bonus to 20 for the second. Top top the average, however, the 15:1 proportion prevails. If the employee understands the parameters, climate the “safe” level that sales, or the level of sales most most likely to an outcome in a bonus, is in overfill of 15. Consequently, the variable-ratio schedule commonly leads to high and stable performance. Moreover, extinction of desired behavior is slow.

Which that these 4 schedules of combine is superior? In a review of number of studies compare the various techniques, Hamner concludes:

The need for arranging ideal reinforcement contingencies is dramatically illustrated by several studies in which rewards were shifted from a response-contingent (ratio) to a time-contingent (interval) basis. Throughout the period in i beg your pardon rewards were made conditional upon incident of the preferred behavior, the appropriate response patterns were showed at a continuously high level. Once the same rewards to be given based upon time and also independent of the worker’s behavior, there was a marked drop in the preferred behavior. The reinstatements that the performance-contingent reward schedule promptly restored the high level the responsiveness.

In various other words, the performance-contingent (or ratio) price schedules generally lead to far better performance than the time-contingent (or interval) schedules, nevertheless of whether together schedules are fixed or variable. We will go back to this point in a subsequent chapter on power appraisal and also reward systems.

Two extr approaches to discovering are found in the work-related of David Kolb and also Mel Silberman. Kolb’s experiential learning layout theory is typically represented through a four-stage finding out cycle in i m sorry the learner ‘touches every the bases’. The 4 stages are accomplished when a person progresses with a cycle of four stages: of (1) having actually a concrete experience complied with by (2) observation of and reflection on that experience which leader to (3) the formation of abstract concepts (analysis) and also generalizations (conclusions) which room then (4) offered to test hypothesis in future situations, resulting in new experiences. Silberman in his book Active Training, established eight qualities of an efficient and active learning experience. The eight qualities are: a center level that content; a balance in between affective, behavioral, and also cognitive learning, a variety of learning approaches, avenues for team participation, encouraging participants to share your expertise, recycling principles and an abilities learned earlier, advocating real-life problem solving, and enabling time because that re-entry.

David Kolb, Experiential Learning, 2nd Edition, (Pearson FT Press: new York, 2015) and also Mel Silberman, Elaine Beich and also Carol Auerbach, Active Training, (Wiley: new York, 2016).

Sharon Johnson operated for a publishing agency based in Nashville, Tennessee, that marketed a line of children’s books directly to the public through a door-to-door sales force. Sharon had been a an extremely successful salesperson and was promoted first to district and also then to local sales manager ~ just 4 years v the company. Sales bonuses were fixed, and a fixed-dollar bonus was tied come every $1,000 in sales end a certain minimum quota. However, there was a wide range of rewards, from worship to gift certificates, that were left come Sharon’s discretion.

Sharon knew from she organizational habits class that giving out praise to those who chosen it and also gifts come those who wanted them was an important means that reinforcing desired behavior, and she had been rather successful in implementing this principle. She additionally knew the if friend reinforced a actions that to be “on the ideal track” come the ideal behavior you wanted out the a salesperson, ultimately you might shape your behavior, almost without their realizing it.

Sharon had one details salesperson, Lyle, the she assumed had an excellent potential, however his weekly sales were somewhat inconsistent and often lower than she assumed possible. When Lyle to be questioned about his performance, he suggested that periodically he felt the the households he approached could not purchased the publications he was selling and also so the did no think it was appropriate to push the sale as well hard. Although Sharon argued that that was not Lyle’s place to decide for others what they can or can not afford, Lyle quiet felt uncomfortable about utilizing his common sales approach with these families.

Sharon believed that with subtle reinforcement of certain behaviors she could shape Lyle’s behavior and that gradually he would increasingly use his usual sales approach with the families he thought might not purchased the books. Because that example, she knew the in the cases of families Lyle thought can not purchased the books, the spent only 3.5 minutes in the house compared to 12.7 minutes in residences of households he judged able to afford the books. Sharon thought that if she praised Lyle as soon as the median time he invested in each family’s house was quite comparable that Lyle would boost the time he spent in the houses of family members he judged unable to bought the books. She thought that the longer he invested in this homes, the more likely Lyle was to make use of his typical sales approach. This was simply one that several ways Sharon assumed she might shape Lyle’s habits without make the efforts to change his mind about pushing publications onto human being he thought can not purchased them.

Sharon observed no ethical concerns in this case until she called a friend about it and also the friend doubted whether it was ethical to use learning and reinforcement approaches to change people’s habits “against their will” also if they did not realize the this to be happening.

Source: This ethical an obstacle is based on a true however disguised case observed by author J. Stewart Black.

What is reinforcement, and also how have the right to it be applied to motivation?What room the four strategies to use for behavioral change?What is the significance of schedules in transforming behavior?
What space the finest practices that organizations utilize come train employees in new job skills?

Reinforcement reasons a certain behavior to be repeated or inhibited. Positive reinforcement is the exercise of presenting someone through an attractive outcome complying with a wanted behavior.

Avoidance discovering occurs when someone attempts to avoid an unpleasant condition or outcome by behaving in a means desired by others.

Punishment is the management of an unpleasant or adverse outcome complying with an undesired behavior. Combine schedules may be continuous or partial. Amongst the partial combine schedules room (1) resolved interval, (2) solved ratio, (3) change interval, and (4) variable ratio.

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Avoidance learningRefers to seeking to stop an unpleasant problem or outcome by adhering to a wanted behavior.Continuous reinforcementRewards desired behavior every time that occurs.ExtinctionThe rule that suggests that undesired actions will decrease as a result of a lack of hopeful reinforcement.Partial reinforcementRewards desired habits at particular intervals, no every time desired behavior is exhibited.Positive reinforcementConsists of presenting someone v an attractive outcome following a preferred behavior.PunishmentThe administration of uncomfortable or disadvantage outcomes together a result of undesired behavior.ReinforcementAnything that reasons a specific behavior come be recurring or inhibited.