As a parent, I understand the importance of consequences in behavioral modification for children. For example, negative behaviors have negative consequences (time out, no iPad for the weekend, etc.) while positive behaviors have positive consequences (extra TV time, 1 item the child can get next time you go shopping, etc.).
However, I have noticed that positive consequences are far more effective than negative consequences. When you reinforce positive behaviors with rewards, a child is more likely to repeat the positive behavior. Praises, hugs, and even rewards instill in the child’s mind that positive behaviors result to good feelings and satisfaction.
The same goes with the adults. As a manager, I have seen how positive reinforcement works way, way better than reprimands, rebukes, and other corrective disciplinary actions. Ever wonder why an employee keeps on making the same mistakes over and over? Once you point out what’s wrong with the employee’s actions, they will be more likely to think about that behavior, over and over, hoping not to make any mistake. However, because the employee keeps on thinking about that behavior, they ended up failing and committing the same mistake again.
The employee is spending more time thinking about the negative behavior and the negative consequences instead of using that energy to excel in the job.
One morning, an employee told me how he liked the way I conduct my morning briefings. He says he enjoys all the positive messages and encouragements I provide to the team before they head out to their stations and serve the customers. He mentioned that the supervisor I replaced used to berate them every single morning for every little thing that they have done wrong. He says the supervisor always nagged, the team leaves the meeting discouraged, and they also make their customers mad due to poor quality of service. His words were “The supervisor was always angry, which made us angry, and, in turn, we also made our customers angry.”
So, if you want to keep your employees happy and stay committed, keep these three basic rules in mind:
Rule #1: Care for your employees. Study has shown that when supervisors show genuine care for their employees, handle their problems, and consistently show concern for their welfare, the employees are more likely to enjoy their jobs and feel more obligated to stay in their jobs for a long time (Shah, et al, 2012). The supervisor’s consistency of positive behavior towards the employees will make the employees stay committed to the organization.
Rule #2: Build a culture of trust. Your employees need to be able to trust you as much as you need to trust your employees. An environment of trust is a sign of positive, high quality relationships among the team. Employees are more likely to have their needs met and will feel motivated and committed to the team (Basford & Offermann, 2012). The study has also shown that when relationships are negative, employees may experience decline in motivation and seek out employment elsewhere.
Rule #3: Maintain open lines of communication. Information is one of the greatest commodities in the workplace. Nobody wants to be left out due to poor or lack of information provided. This goes alongside Rule #2. Oftentimes, supervisors build so much trust with few employees that they start their own inner-circle. Those within this circle are more likely to get more feedback from the supervisor. The academia calls this the Leader-Member Exchange or LMX. High quality relationships often are built upon the quality of relationships the supervisor has with the employees. Supervisors and subordinates may communicate more frequently and more openly in high quality relationships, which, in turn, results to higher job satisfaction and commitment to the organization for the subordinates (Sias, 2005). By building a culture of trust and maintaining a good flow of information towards your subordinates, you are helping them remain committed to their jobs.
Noticing and pointing out all the little mistakes of your employees only make them commit those mistakes again. Instead, focus on the good things that they do. Stop nagging. Stop micromanaging. Start pointing out the positive behaviors and be generous in giving praises. You don’t want your employees to feel like they are walking on eggshells each time you’re around. Start cultivating a culture of excellence where team members thrive, become their best, and they have a supervisor who always backs them up!
Basford, T.E., & Offermann, L.R. (2012). Beyond leadership: The impact of coworker relationships on employee motivation and intent to stay. Journal of Management & Organization, 18(6), 807-817.
Shah, M.J., Ur-Rehman, M., Akhtar, G., Zafar, H., & Riaz, A. (2012). Job satisfaction and motivation of teachers of public educational institutions. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 3(8), 271-281.
Sias, P.M. (2005). Workplace relationship quality and employee information experiences. Communication Studies, 56(4), 375-395.