Managers are almost always aware when their employees treat them as that parent who “nags,” harping about employees low-quality scores or performances. Since this is a common theme among various organizations, managers should understand why they are not getting the workplace results they believe their employees can warrant.
From a Behavior modification standpoint, managers can increase the desired behavior or workplace performance by identifying the gap between the current and preferred performance and behavior. Raymond Miltenberger characterizes in his book “Behavior Modification, Principle and Procedures,” that “Behavior deficit is a desirable target behavior the person wants to increase in frequency, duration, or intensity” (2008, p.5). For example, a manager and employee may desire to increase the number of quality accounts processed in a day.
“The major goal of behavior modification is to replace undesirable behaviors with acceptable ones. An underlying theme is the belief that how people react to an object or event can be modified by learning”.
By introducing behavior modification in the workplace, managers create new avenues and tools to interject and bypass the undesirable performances and behaviors to get to achievable results.
The lack of well-established expectations are one of the main reason that employees and managers do not see eye to eye.
Waiting until employees make significant errors in performance or behavior is not the time to set an expectation. Expectations are to be laid out like the foundation for a new home. Believing that employees will follow the rules just because they know how to perform does not equate to the desired performance and outcome being carried out by the employee. Before reprimanding employees for not doing what, you expect them to do, please save time and do yourself a favor and make it clear what you desire from your employees. Hopefully, this will lessen the blowback if that difficult conversation is necessary for future conversations.
Do what you say you will do
As in most situations that include children as well as adults, it is necessary to not only establish expectations but the consequence as well. Alone, a threat is not an indicator of behavioral changes to come. Without consequence, change is not eminent. Until it is applied and felt by an employee, they will consistently perform the behavior that you as a manager will most likely find unacceptable. Now, that is not an instruction to “crack the whip,” but it should encourage you to set consequence along with expectations plainly.
“No matter your method, the process of behavior modification starts by identifying a behavior you want to increase and the circumstances around it. There must be a measurement of the desired behavior/performance, to receive a clear distinction between what is and is not acceptable. To obtain measurable results, review and watch the performance for about three weeks before you begin to measure the desirable performance. Carefully gathering data beforehand that will paint the picture of the type of performance or behavior your employee is rendering, and reveal the sort of behavior or performances that are not acceptable. Once established, you as well as the employee will have clear indicators of the baseline (where you are starting from) and the progression towards the projected desirable behavior.
Celebrate wins — punish fails through Reinforcement
“A commonly used element of behavior modification is positive reinforcement or a reward system. An example of positive reinforcement is giving a child a hug when she does a good job or providing money for good grades. Negative reinforcement, which takes something away to reinforce good behavior, is also an effective tool to modify habits or other behavior”. An example of negative reinforcement is eliminating an employees’ ability to work from home (they must now come into the office) because of low-quality assurance and performance scores.
Celebrating the wins can come in a package such as an end of the year bonus, through gift cards, adulation, titles, promotions, days off, etc. Whatever it takes to motivate the sort of behavior you desire inside your organization (of course within reason) should be utilized to ensure that other employees recognize the consequence of desirable behavior.
“Behavior modification can also discourage unwanted behavior through punishment, which can also be positive or negative. In this theory, the term positive refers to something added — such as a consequence. An example is placing an employee on a verbal warning for being late to work. “Negative punishment is when something is taken away, such as the removal of video games if chores have not been completed.”
Punishment is not an avenue to berate an employee. However, the performance that is not up to par needs to be handled successfully to ensure more of the performance and behavior you desire.
Do you want to see more of that performance that you and your organization desire? Well, begin to teach employees how to gain the attributes that are necessary to be successful through Behavior modification.
Miltenberge, R.G. (2008). Behavior Modification, Principle and Procedures 4th ed(.). Wadsworth: Belmont CA.