6 Positive Reinforcement Techniques to Discipline Employees
Both punishment and reward are two tactics for preventing bad behavior.
Guess which one is more effective?
Although many employers believe that chastising their employees is an effective disciplinary measure, it is rarely effective in the long-term. Instead, your employees may do things out of concern for punishment rather than desire to improve your company. In fact, punishment can even:
- Curb innovation: Trying different solutions may not give you the results that you want, but not trying anything will cause you to stagnate. Negative disciplinary action often renders employees afraid to try new things.
- Foster unhealthy competition: Favoritism is rampant in some workplaces and punishment can lead some employees to feel victimized if they are one of the few punished. Without realizing it, you may be encouraging employees to compete to prove their loyalty rather than collaborating for the company’s benefit.
- Create high turnover: Depending on how you discipline your employees, you may drive many away with harsh measures such as wage garnishment, suspension, or termination.
How Do I Use Positive Reinforcement to Discipline Employees?
Positive reinforcement relies on providing employees with opportunities to get rewarded for good behavior. For example, if you use negative discipline to correct employee behavior you are pointing out a few mistakes rather than highlighting the good. Instead of focusing on what your employees do wrong, positive reinforcement points out and rewards what they do right.
Positive reinforcement techniques used to discipline employees include:
- Create a clear system so that your employees understand the consequences and rewards associated with their actions.
- Inform employees of your expectations by writing a document that clearly outlines how you will handle problematic situations that arise in the office. This is usually included in an employee handbook and signed by all employees.
- Determine what your employees respond to. Part of creating an effective system is finding out what motivates your employees. You can create a fun, competitive atmosphere to encourage anything from timeliness to volunteerism.
- Discuss issues before they get bigger. Establishing good communication between management and employees is critical to positive reinforcement. Your position should be to provide your employee with the resources she or he needs to improve, not the added stress of punishment.
- Offer support. Many employees benefit from direct communication on how they can improve their performance. Nurturing employees rather than threatening them with negative consequences is more likely to bring out the good qualities of your entire team and help your company innovate.
- Assessment using self-evaluation as a tool. Provide your employees with a questionnaire to find out how they perceive their performance. In many cases, your employees may not even realize how problematic their behavior is and are quick to self-correct once they find out.