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Improving Performance and Positive Reinforcement

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    Improving Performance and Positive Reinforcement

                Positive reinforcement, which generally involves rewards, is an essential factor in life. There are two types of rewards, and they are called intrinsic and extrinsic reward. Intrinsic reward is a kind of positive reinforcement that is given to workers by themselves. This refers to having self-esteem or confidence, achievements, growth, and progress of a certain skill or ability. A good example of this is when an employee gets promoted at work and is assigned to a higher position. In this case, he or she would be able to learn new skills and get the chance to enhance his or her skills further. This is also an opportunity to boost one’s self-esteem since he or she was given a higher rank at work. On the other hand, extrinsic reward is a kind of a positive reinforcement that is given to employees or workers by the company such as salary, privileges, bonuses, and incentives. An example of this is when a company gives incentives or bonuses for those employees who will be able to perform well and contribute something significant to the company. In this way, employees would be encouraged to do their best at work in order to receive the attractive incentives and bonuses (D’Ausilio, 2008).

                One of the applications of extrinsic reward is the practice of pay performance which is a reward system that gives employees reasons to do their best at work. It is a kind of motivation wherein employees receive extra compensation or bonus for reaching a certain goal or target at work. Employees will be paid not for the hours or time spent at work but rather for their productivity and the specific result of their performance at work. Their contribution and productivity will be the basis of their compensation.

    Nevertheless, it is said that rewards often fail to motivate employees for several reason. First, when asked what is important at work, employees generally would answer money or reward, not ranking first, second, or third. They think that pay is not a motivator even a lot of people think that employees are just concerned about their salaries, it does not prove that money or reward is motivating at all. There is no concrete evidence that giving people more reward will make them do their best on their job (Kohn, 1993). Second, rewards break relationship between employees in a firm. Since employees work for their own interests and gain, having a reward system may trigger them to commit selfish acts. Hence, cooperation and teamwork may be difficult to achieve in this kind of rewarding system as the employees may focus instead on competing in getting the reward (Kohn, 1993). Lastly, rewards undermine interests. If one’s target is to achieve quality at work, then there is no extrinsic motivator that will get through it; rather, intrinsic motivator will be the main focus. People work not only because of money and bonuses, but also because that is what they love to do, and it is what makes them happy. Thus, in some cases, having a reward and focusing on it weakens the person’s interests on the job itself (Kohn, 1993).

                In a company, different kinds of reinforcement apply, depending on the company and the performance of employees. Some of these reinforcements employed by companies are the positive and negative reinforcements. In positive reinforcement, people are motivated to do and finish the task in the manner that the company wants them to achieve. People are expected to do a good job at work, and in return, they will be given a certain reward (Giollito, 2005). On the other hand, negative reinforcement strengthens a behavior for the reason that a negative situation is stopped or avoided as an effect of the behavior (Maccarelli, 2006). For instance, an employee was not able to meet a certain goal at his or her work; there will be a certain consequences for his or her actions thus reinforcing the employee’s behavior and will make them perform better next time.

    Punishment, extinction, and behavior shaping are also types of reinforcement used in the workplace. Through punishment, a certain behavior is weakened as a result of experiencing a negative condition. Example of this at work is when employees are always late at work; the boss can give a certain punishment like making employees work overtime without payment every time that they will come to work late. In that case the number of late employees will be decreased since nobody wants to do the consequence of being late at work.  In the case of extinction, a negative behavior is mainly stopped and terminated and will be changed permanently to a positive behavior. For example, an employee is not being productive at work making the company lose profit; if the employee will be positively reinforced to work and aim the goal of gaining profit for the company, then the negative behavior can totally be changed to a positive behavior. Finally, behavior shaping is an aspect of behavior study that slowly teaches new behavior through the use of reinforcement until a certain behavior is achieved (Taylor, 2008). An example of this is when an employee learns a new behavior such as good time management at work if in the case that the employee does not know how to manage his or her time very well. In that way, a person’s behavior and habit is changed.

                In conclusion, the following reinforcements will be a good help to improve an individual’s performance at work. Becoming aware of the various ways to condition behavior can be an ultimate guide for individuals to behave in the way they want, which has an equivalent consequence. Whether it is negative or positive, there will always be a consequence for every action they make.


    D’Ausilio, R. (2008). What Motivates Your Employees? Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

    Rewards. TMCnet. Retrieved October 9, 2008 from


    Giolitto, D. (2005). Productivity through positive reinforcement. Ezine Articles.

    Retrieved October 8, 2008, from

    Kohn, A. (1993). Why incentive plans cannot work. Harvard Business Review, 71 (5), 54–60.

    Retrieved October 9, 2008 from

    Maccarelli, S. (2006). Positive & negative reinforcement. Associated Content. Retrieved

    October 9, 2008 from

    Taylor, K. (2008). Learning types. Classical conditioning, operant conditioning,

     and observational learning. Associated Content. Retrieved October 8, 2008 from


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