What Are You Rewarding?

You have more influence than you might think in encouraging desired behaviors in others. Whether good or bad, we get more of the behavior we reward.

Do you encourage your employees, spouse, students or children by supporting their positive behavior? Or, do you assume behavior should be positive all the time, and comment on their behavior only when it needs a tune-up?

Do you encourage desired behavior with clear goals or direction such as, “We need to have every order processed within 30 seconds.” Or, “Greet every customer with a smile.”

Sought after behavior can also be encouraged with positive feedback or a compliment, such as, “Your work on that last project was exceptional. We’re lucky to have you on our team.” “Your room looks very nice. Thanks for keeping it so clean.” or, “This is our daughter Mary, she is the most thoughtful child on earth.”

Without realizing it, we can also unintentionally encourage the behavior we don’t want by allowing it to continue. For example, let’s say Jane leaves work five minutes early for lunch and returns five minutes late at least twice a week. If her supervisor doesn’t say something to Jane about leaving and returning to work on time, I’m confident two things will happen:

  • 1) Jane will continue to abuse the work rules, stretching that abuse to every day if allowed; and
  • 2) Other employees will see that Jane is getting away with something and will also begin abusing their lunch break or other rules.

The Greatest Management Principle in the World, a book by Michael LaBoeuf, states that not correcting a negative behavior is the same as rewarding it. Allowing unwanted behavior to continue sets the lowest acceptable standard for employees, students or others to follow.

As an employer, what do you reward? Do you recognize or reward excellent customer service? Do you reward individual or cumulative sales with a sales commission? Do you reward safety on the job, or do you simply track and post the number of days without a lost time accident? If your reward isn’t tied to the desired behavior or action such as: Increased sales over last year will result in a bonus or time off, don’t be surprised if you don’t sustain your desired behavior. Remember, you get more of what you reward.

As an employee, student or a team member, are you striving for the maximum possible – or are you settling for the minimum acceptable? If you or those around you are doing the least you can to get by, you may find your work more interesting by challenging yourself to do more. Ask your employer to identify the most important aspect of their business. Is it customer service, speed of service, quantity of sales or production, safety in the workplace, or something else?

After your employer defines their top priority, offer to help design a reward system that will have all employees focusing on the desired outcome. The reward could be pizza on Friday, an hour off, movie tickets, or a choice from two or three items. Be creative, and ask other employees the type of reward they would like after reaching the agreed upon goal. Be sure to discuss a range of possible rewards with your employer before suggesting one to the team. Have the employees, students or those involved suggest options for rewards, and you or your boss can choose from them.

When people make a connection between the desired behavior or action and the reward, they are more likely to focus on the desired outcome. By ensuring that connection, you can help assure the outcome. Since we all perform better when we have a clear picture of the desired outcome, those around you will also be more focused and will more likely operate as a team toward the defined goal.

Whether in our work life or personal life, we get more of what we reward. Are you encouraging and rewarding positively with clear direction and expectations, a compliment, or other forms of recognition; or is your approach to allow the undesired behavior to continue by failing to address it? Remember, we get more of the behavior we reward.