Positive Reinforcement in the Workplace

Posted by April Parks, M.S. Conflict Management

Aug 6, 2014 5:18:00 PM

Positive Reinforcement in the WorkplaceHave you ever heard the term "leave alone/zap management?" You may not know the exact reference, but I bet you have experienced this type of management or have at least seen it in practice before. Leave alone/zap management refers to the habit of giving employees no attention or recognition until something bad happens and then managers are quick to "zap" the issue only taking into consideration the faults of the employee.

While this may seem desirable because of the less hands-on approach by the manager and more independence for the employee, in reality this type of management doesn't foster a positive workplace or a productive one. It only acknowledges employees' mistakes rather than their accomplishments and dedication to the company.

Bill Sims Jr., president at Bill Sims Co., specializes in leadership consulting, especially in how to create a positive workplace environment. Sims conducted a survey through his consulting firm and found that 70% of employees never hear positive reinforcement or feedback from their supervisors.

This is an astounding percentage considering people, more often than not, thrive on recognition. There needs to be positive vibes throughout the office. That can be through recognition from colleagues and managers or it can come from positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement in the workplace is a great way to motivate and reach goals. If your work environment is wreaking havoc with negativity and negative feedback, then you might take on a more likable approach and integrate positive reinforcement into your work environment. Because in today's workforce, retention is not just about the salary and benefits; it's also about recognition and feeling valued in the organization.

So here is a quick and simple way of showing/giving positive reinforcement at your workplace:

1. Be specific when complementing an employee on their efforts. The more specific you are about their accomplishments, the more valued that employee will feel.

2. Be spontaneous with recognition. If you start to have a routine when giving positive feedback or reinforcements, then it won't be special anymore. Employees want to know that you see their hard work. If it becomes redundant and predictable, it will be of less value to them and they will appreciate the gesture less.

3. Be sincere and show genuine appreciation. As a leader, managers should be in the business of paying attention to their employees' efforts. Make sure they know you do care about their work and appreciate when they have met goals and achieved success.

4. Finally, reward those small improvements that employees make. Those small things will yield large results when it comes to business goals and quotas.

When you start using these methods of positive reinforcement, it will affect the people you work with for the better. Employees will notice that their manager is taking notice to them and will therefore, boost their morale. Once they receive recognition it will give them something to strive for; it gives more meaning to their jobs so they value their position in the company more. With these boosts of self-confidence, teams within the organization will also see an increase in collaboration and communication.

With all of that in mind, there are times when it is necessary to reprimand employees. Obviously accountability is an important aspect of the workplace too. So instead of coming down so hard on an employee, take the time to sit down and chat with them about what went wrong and what led to this mistake. Was it something you, as the manager, should've prevented? Was it just a silly mistake because the employee was working long hours that week? Whatever the case may be, check in with them and discuss how you can prevent the same thing from happening again.

Also you want to reassure them of their capabilities. You hired them for a reason, so tell them that because there is a high possibility that they will get discouraged.

Finally, when the punishment is given or reprimand is over, it's over. Start with a clean slate and move forward. If you've had a fruitful discussion with the employee and have resolved the issue, then it's best to keep everyone's focus and start tomorrow anew.

Just remember, even if reprimand is necessary, it can be delivered in a positive way. Positive reinforcement will define any workplace. Because people put a lot of value on engagement and appreciation, if organizations don't get on board with positive reinforcements, other organizations will pull ahead leaving those in the dust and taking their employees with them.

Performance Management