Which Is More Effective In The Workplace – Positive or Negative Reinforcement?


Solid managers encourage their employees to stay engaged and committed to their tasks; however, all leaders don’t use the same approach.   Some managers will use positive reinforcement to promote and acknowledge their employees dedication as well as hard work, while others are more apt to using negative reinforcement in order to keep their employees motivated.

Positive reinforcement is favored because of the encouragement as well as accolades that generate a productive employee.  BusinessDictionary.com lists positive reinforcement as a methodology where the introduction of a stimulus (challenge, penalty, reward, etc.) increases or maintains the likelihood of the same response.   This type of reinforcement can be very effective especially if it’s put into effect immediately following a good behavior.  The most common accolades distributed are: promotions, raises, flexible schedules or even something as simple as recognition.

Negative reinforcement can sometimes be perceived as punishment, but that’s not always the case. BusinessDictionary.com lists negative reinforcement as a methodology where the removal of a challenge, penalty, or reward (stimulus) increases or maintains the likelihood of the recurrence of the same behavior or output.   Avoiding this technique seems to be the popular choice because most people associate this method with conflict, but it’s necessary to make an employee aware of your expectations as well as certain areas needing improvement.

Of course, there’s more of a draw to positive reinforcement because it’s the easiest approach, but it’s not always the best tactic.  Both of these techniques are necessary when managing a team or employee based in different scenarios.  It’s essential to ensure employees are recognized and rewarded when it’s well-deserved, but there’s also a need to guide them down a path of success and in order to get them there, you have to set specific expectations.

All managers have a unique outlook when it comes to how they choose to groom and promote a solid work ethic within their employees.   Some leaders fail to recognize that by utilizing only one approach is a disadvantage not only for their employee, but to them as well. You might find continued success with the growth of an employee by using not one of these methods, but both.


What do you think?  As a leader in your organization – what type of reinforcement do you use most?

About TRC Staffing Services, Inc.

2 Responses to “Which Is More Effective In The Workplace – Positive or Negative Reinforcement?”

  1. Positive reinfiorcement! Incentives, feedback, communication of expectations

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