From Rules to Playbook: Reinforcing Staff Behavior in Workplace.

“Your department is made up of human beings. Of mothers, sons, daughters, fathers. Finding ways to show our staff that we care and appreciate them, and finding ways to positively reinforce behavior is one of the cornerstones of any great management strategy.”
Aquinius 2015

What are the best ways to motivate employees and increase productivity? This is a crucial question for just about anyone in a workplace leadership role.

And, while leadership experts may agree with Aubrey Daniels that “positive reinforcement is the most powerful leadership tool” (Daniels, 1982), managers often find themselves overwhelmed by the multitude of factors involved in just how, when, and where to administer it.

The two underlying purposes of workplace positive reinforcement are:

  1. To acknowledge a desired behavior; and
  2. To encourage a desired behavior.

Of course, such acts of intentional acknowledgement and encouragement require effective leadership that is both motivating and inspiring. Researchers have described a particular management style termed transformational leadership that promotes motivation by inspiring employees to do their best (Cleavenger & Munyon, 2013).

Pulitzer Prize winner James MacGregor Burns describes the underlying agenda of transformational leadership as:

“… the protection and nourishing of happiness, for extending the opportunity to pursue happiness to all people”

(Burns, 2003, p. 3).

Transformational leadership is highly pertinent to positive reinforcement because it is concerned with enhancing the perceived meaningfulness of work. This objective is achieved by reinforcing various types of positive behaviors, such as autonomy (which is supported by providing employees credit for contributions and celebrating team successes); and task significance (which is supported by acknowledging individual contributions).

In other words, effective

“managers help people see themselves as they are; Leaders help people to see themselves better than they are”

(Rohn, 2014).
Positive Reinforcement Leadership

Whatever the type of feedback might be, it is generally of higher quality when delivered in a warm and safe environment (Cleavenger & Munyon, 2013).

It is these and other qualities of transformational leadership that promote effective employee-manager relationships; which, in turn, enhance an employee’s ability to make rewarding and meaningful career contributions.

Effective leaders possess a meaningful repertoire of reinforcement techniques, and they know how to use them.

Whether the type of reinforcement is monetary compensation, verbal feedback, advancement opportunities, or something else; it is important to recognize that the potency of a reward is contingent upon the particular employee and what he/she finds rewarding.

Published by Aquinius Mung'atia

Aquinius Mung’atia is the Head of Projects at Aga Khan Hospital, Mombasa, and was previously the General Manager of Muthaiga Golf Club and Sigona Golf Clubs, respectively. He is an expert in Strategic Management with over 20 years of experience in both hospitality and healthcare Industry. My Career path boast of extensive training and consultancy experience in Hospitality Industry, Hospital Support Services and Operations, Healthcare Projects and Facility Management, among others. The author is currently a PhD student in Business Administration and holder of MBA in strategic Management (University of Nairobi) and a 1st class honors degree in Hotel and Institution Management (Maseno University) Aquinius is also a healthcare insight and a data analytic enthusiast. Follow him on or Facebook Page

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