Negative Reinforcement in the Workplace

Positive is good, and negative is bad, right? When people think of positive reinforcement, they think of being given a reward for doing the right action. Negative reinforcement, on the other hand, is a bit trickier. Whereas most people think negative reinforcement is punishment, surprisingly enough it is not. Let’s take a look at exactly what negative reinforcement in the workplace means, as well as the implication for employees and companies alike.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is when something that is negative is removed from the situation. It is a method of problem-solving where the obstacles are removed prior to the objective being attempted. Negative reinforcement can also mean removing challenges ahead of an individual to make their task easier. So, simply put, whereas positive reinforcement is giving you something good, negative reinforcement is removing something bad. The end result is sometimes considered the same, which is the successful and easy completion of the task with a reward (with something good being equal to nothing bad.)

Negative Reinforcement in the Workplace

When it comes to the workplace, negative reinforcement can have its place. For example, if you have a specialist working on a complex and challenging problem, it may be easier for you to remove hurdles they may have to overcome as they work. By using this negative reinforcement, the specialist has an easier job focusing on the task at hand, completing the task more quickly as a result.

Where negative reinforcement begins to hurt the workplace is when it removes all challenge from employees. Part of having a job is learning and growing at work. This involves struggling, failing, and succeeding. Negative reinforcement eliminates all of this by removing a great deal of the struggle, making it easier for employees to get the job done without growth.

Whether or not negative reinforcement is right for your business is entirely dependent on the nature of your business. If you are a start-up computer tech company, then everyone will benefit from struggling and growing in their positions. If you sell pizza, on the other hand, negative reinforcement can be used to eliminate much of the hassle that your workers may experience when trying to do their jobs. In the end, it depends on what you need to accomplish and the complexity of the task at hand. Until you figure out what the right course of action is, good luck.

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Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.