Essay on Positive and Negative Reinforcement in Leadership Styles

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Positive and Negative Reinforcement in Leadership Styles

This paper highlights several different reinforcement styles in leadership designed to motivate employees to achieve goals successfully. Positive reinforcement (sometimes called a reward system or compensation system) can involve the use of rewards, such as pay increases, various incentives or recognition, as a motivator. Negative reinforcement will sometimes use scare tactics or abuse, such as public humiliation or the threat of a demotion, to push employees in certain directions. This paper will explore both styles, and the pros and cons of each. It will also look into how the two leadership styles can be used in conjunction with one another to modify behavior
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Physical incentives, such as bonuses, gift-cards (or other immediate monetary devices), and prizes can also lead to an increase in undesirable behavior, such as “gaming”, or working the system. In his lectures, Roberto (2011) speaks of gaming as an exercise in human creativity, learning the system and coming up with ways around it to achieve the rewards being offered. This practice is not uncommon in high-reward environments, and can certainly result in lower satisfaction among employees who strive to work fairly and honestly. Clearly, when working with a positive reinforcement system in the workplace, it's important to pay attention to how and when extrinsic and intrinsic rewards are given, in order to create a just and productive environment.
The second leadership style, negative reinforcement, can be extremely effective in the workplace. Typically, this system of negative rewards will involve a reprimand, withholding of pay, or possible termination, and as Keller et al. (1976) notes, can be regarded as analogous to punishment. While the idea of this punitive reward system sounds unpleasant, especially when compared with the above positive reward systems, it is a system that can certainly yield productive results. Especially in times of economic strife, being faced with the possibility of termination or a dock in pay is a strong motivator for many employees to produce desired results. Properly following a