Types of Reinforcement

Meaning of Reinforcement

Reinforcement means anything that increases both the strength of response and repetitions of behaviours that preceded the reinforcement. By using reinforcement, management can maintain or increase the probability of desired behaviours and eliminate the undesirable behaviour among employees. Thus, reinforcers work as behaviour modifiers.

Types of Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement

This strategy involves the use of rewards for desired behaviour so as to strengthen the probability of repeating such behaviour in future. Positive reinforcers can be primary and secondary. Primary reinforcers such as food, clothing and shelter have direct beneficial consequences. Secondary reinforcers such as money, promotion and praise have a variety of meanings for individuals.

Effective reinforcers must satisfy two conditions. First, the reward must be directly linked with behaviour so that greater the performance of the employee more should be the reward. Secondly, the reward should be matched with the needs and desires of the performer. The timing of the reward is also important. This is known as the principle of immediate reinforcement. The reinforcement will have a more profound effect if the reward is given soon after the desired behavíour occurs.

Negative Reinforcement

it involves threat of punishment to reduce the probability of undesirable behaviour and to strengthen desired behaviour. The employee works hard to avoid reprimand and other negative aspects. For example, the chief executive may like his managers to wear tie and criticise those not wearing the tie. The managers wear ties to avoid criticism.


This strategy is based on the principle that If a response is not reinforced, it will eventually disappear For example, a disruptive employee who picks fights and who is apparently punished by the supervisor may continue the disruptions because of the attenention they bring to him. His behaviour can be extincted by ignoring or isolating him so that attention is withheld.


Punishment is the traditional method of reducing or eliminating undesirable behaviour. Behaviour. Criticism. Denying privileges, transfer to an inconvenient place, demotion, etc. are common forms of punishment in the workplace. But there are possible dangers in punishment. Therefore, the following guidelines should be kept in mind while administering punishment.

(a) Punish the specific undesirable behaviour and not the person.

(b) The punishment should be adequate to extinguish the undesired behaviour. Under punishment may not deter the behaviour while over punishment may produce undesirable results.

(c) Punishment should be given privately so that the employee does not lose face before others.

(d) Punishment should be applied immediately after the undesirable behaviour occurs and should follow every occurrence of undesirable behaviour.

(e) Punishment should be so administered that it does not become a reward for undesirable behaviour.