The Role of Rewards & Punishment as Deterrents
Rewarding good behavior and punishing problematic or undesired behaviors are basic tenants of motivation. However, companies over time have found that rewards often reinforce positive behavior and motivate repetition. Punishment may temporarily motivate compliance, but it often leads to lower morale and less productivity in the long run.
Rewarding behaviors essentially draws attention to the fact that an employee accomplished something or acted in a way that is desired by the company or manager. It also reinforces the behavior if the employee connects the reward to the behavior and values the reward. Thus, a reward that is desirable and consistently provided in responses to the desired action or behavior can have significant short-term and long-term motivational benefits.
Success with rewards generally begins with rewarding the behaviors you want. If you want a team-oriented worker, reward for demonstrated teamwork as opposed to aggressive, independent behaviors. Rewards don't have to be highly tangible in all cases. Frederick Herzberg noted in his two-factory theory that recognition, prestige and rewarding work often have greater motivating potential than income. Thus, praise and public acknowledgment of a job well done can often boost an employee's morale and motivation. Gift cards and cash bonuses are always nice, too.
Punishments in the workplace can include intangible and tangible elements. Nagging an employee to complete work, making threats and hovering are examples or intangible punishments. More tangibly, verbal or written reprimands, pay cuts, demotions and suspensions are punishments. When a manager uses one of these techniques to motivate behavior, he is attempting to motivate by fear. The hope is that an employee will want to do what is expected to avoid the undesirable outcome -- the punishment.
Punishment is a common tool used in various motivational situations. However, a June 2012 "Business News Daily" article pointed out that companies increasingly believe that a "carrot," or positive reinforcement or reward, is much more impacting to employee performance than a "stick," or punishment. Employees may temporarily react to unexpected or undesired punishment by increasing production or performance. However, fear, anxiety and frustration can ultimately cause employee burnout and contribute to a negative work culture. These inhibit long-term benefits.