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Why is positive reinforcement so important in the workplace?

Posted on 17/11/2016 by Donna Newton

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The key to being a great manager is ensuring your team are engaged and motivated and therefore achieving the desired results. In the not-for-profit sector especially, where the feel-good factor drives a huge number of employees, this is never more prevalent. Using positive reinforcement, focusing less on what people are doing wrong and more on what they are doing right, is the process of rewarding or incentivising desired behaviour or performance to increase the likelihood of its continuation. Through creating a happy, motivated and confident workforce, you will influence results, improve staff retention and really impact your organisation’s objectives.

Here are a few benefits of using positive reinforcement in your workplace:

  • Increasing confidence: when employees feel that their efforts are being recognised and acknowledged, this can lead to a sense of self-worth which will help them to continue performing well in the future. For example, when you praise an employee for a good piece of work, that person is likely to do that job very well a second time.

  • Motivating effective workers: lack of reinforcement leads to job dissatisfaction

  • Improving workplace morale: when employees feel appreciated and supported in their working environment this can foster a happier working environment. An employee that enjoys coming into work every day is more likely to show an interest in their work and feel motivated to do a good job.

Punishment is often the most obvious approach for eliminating inappropriate behaviour, and at times it is necessary. However, using censure as your only method for managing staff could have detrimental effects on your organisation. Although punishment can eliminate undesired behaviours in the short-term, you are not reinforcing the behaviours that you do want. You could inadvertently be killing-off people’s motivation, morale and confidence whilst creating an anxious, fearful workforce. A negative working environment could result in a high employee turnover, which will cost your organisation more time and money.

There are many ways that you can reward staff for their hard work. Many commercial organisations use monetary incentives in the form of bonus schemes, however for charity and non-profit organisations this is rarely an option. A simple verbal ‘thank you’ or acknowledgment of behaviour can be just as effective, particularly if it’s done in public in front of their peers.

Some important things to bear in mind when you’re using positive reinforcement are:

  • Be genuine and sincere, otherwise it’s meaningless

  • Reinforce immediately

  • Avoid favouritism, if one person is getting all the praise and attention, others may start to lack motivation and morale

  • This may be an obvious one, but be specific about what you a praising the employee for

  • Reinforce often but unpredictably

Inevitably, however, at times unacceptable behaviour and performance does need to be bought to attention. Striking a balance between positive reinforcement and disciplining staff is the most effective way to achieve a happy and productive workforce

At TPP we offer a variety of seminars and recruitment advice to help you successfully manage your team, recruit the right candidates and much more.

We recently ran a free breakfast seminar on performance management – you can see the slides here.

If you're interested in finding out how TPP can help you put together the perfect team, get in touch on 020 7198 6000 or