This afternoon, I recorded a webinar on employee motivation techniques. During the webinar, I discussed a model of human behavior that helps to explain why people do what they do. The main learning point from this model is that people generally do what they do because of what they expect to happen after they do it.
After the webinar, I was speaking with my friend and colleague Kevin Eikenberry. We discussed the webinar, and, as we spoke, I remembered an event from a training class I lead on this topic one time. During the training class, I made the point that only positive reinforcements encourage people to give high-level, maximum effort.
A class participant challenged me on this point, and our conversation went something like this:
Participant: “Are you saying that I have to keep giving people positive reinforcement for their workplace behaviors?”
Me: “Yes, that's exactly my point.”
Participant: “Why don't they just do what they're supposed to do. I told them they were doing a good job once. I shouldn't have to keep telling them.”
Me: “Well, you're probably right about that. Is it ok if I ask you a question?”
Me: “Do you have to keep paying people for them to keep coming back to work?”
Participant: “Of course I do.”
Me: “Well, you paid them once. Why do you have to keep paying them?”
Participant: “You're kidding, right? I have to keep paying them because the money eventually runs out. If I stop paying them, they'll go somewhere else.”
Me: “It's exactly the same thing with reinforcements and high-level performance. If you stop giving encouragement, praise, and other positive input to people; eventually the positive runs out.”
This article is from the Motivation series. Use the links below to read more from this series.
- The 5 Be's of Motivation
- The Positive Runs Out
- A Simple Model for Understanding What Drives Behavior
- You Cannot Punish People into Good Behavior
- Three Clues You Can Use to Find What Motivates Another Person
- Employee Motivation Tips: Their Personal Life
- Employee Motivation Tips: Their DISC Behavior Style