The reinforcement theory implies that if a person has a need, then he/she will be motivated to work hard to achieve the need desired.  Furthermore, there is a continuous pattern within reinforcement, for consequences influence behavior and behavior influences consequence.  It is important to recognize that people constantly need to be reinforced for work that is done.  Reinforcement is what motivates and drives people to push themselves.  What specific reinforcements encourage individuals is undecidedly so, for it is different for each individual.

If hard work is rewarded and positively reinforced, then the outcome will increase the probability of more hard work and dedication.  When an employee is negatively reinforced, than the probability of the behavior or work will diminish and be reduced.  This occurrence of positive and negative reinforcement and the outcomes are known as the laws of effect because behaviors will alter do to the effect of the reinforcement. 

Organizational Behavior Modification (OBM) is a process of establishing reinforcement contingencies for desired work behaviors.  Some examples of what an employer might do to encourage a desired behavior would create incentive plans or a bonus.  Motivational theories consist of combinations of needs, goals, incentives, and reinforcers.  It is important to recognize the importance of reinforcers, for they are usually rewards such as bonuses, paychecks, or promotions.  These types of reinforcers are positive and drive employees to work harder to reach the reward.

Within the reinforcement theory, it is important to realize that using positive reinforcers is beneficial for they can lead an employee’s behavior improve or repeat.  Negative reinforcement can cause a behavior to inhibit.  An example model of the reinforcement theory is as follows:


As this model demonstrates, there are four types of consequences when using this theory: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, extinction, and punishment.  Extinction would end the behavior completely and punishment would stop the behavior by some sort of penalty.  An employer must recognize and create different types of reinforcements, both positive and negative.  The reinforcement theory applies to the ABC’s in such a fashion:

ABC's of Work Behavior:.

  1. ANTECEDENT --- The antecedent is what happens before the behavior occurs.  It is a stimulus that provokes the behavior and is often in the form of cues from the environment.


  1. BEHAVIOR --- Something and employee does or says which is usually an overt action such as filing a report, coming to work on time, or any one of a multitude of behaviors in which an employee engages in getting a job done.


  1. CONSEQUENCE --- What happens after the employee behaves in a certain manner on the job.

Applying the ABC’s to the reinforcement theory is important, for sometimes when the antecedent provokes a behavior, it is important to recognize why an employee behaved in such a fashion.  By taking the time to look at both the antecedent and the behavior, then an appropriate consequence can be administered.  Overall, this theory can apply to many aspects of life and both positive and negative reinforcing of employees is beneficial to get a desired behavioral outcome. 


Maslow Theory