The aim of this paper is to explain the application of reinforcement theory by the managers to shape employee’s behaviors in order to overcome restraining forces of change in an organization.
Goal is to explain the managerial aspect of applying reinforcement theory.
For better explanation, some basic fundamentals of Organizational Behavior and Organizational Development will be used with special reference to reinforcement theory and how managers should apply strategies in lessening resistance to change amongst employee’s.
Purpose is to help us better understand organizational behavior and organizational development techniques and theory and how to implement them in an organization.
I will be including all the essential components of reinforcement theory,its principle,its application as how it should be implemented by managers,what are the restraining forces that comes in the way during changes and how management should try to overcome it.
Reinforcement is an extremely important principle of conditioning used by managers to influence their employees in an organization. It is the process of shaping behavior by controlling its consequences.
Reinforcement theory is sometimes known as operant conditioning as it focuses on th relationship between operant behavior and associated consequences.
Continuous reinforcement strategies are implemented to sustain employees’ desire to work as they loose their interest in work over long period of time. Hence management should use the reinforcement strategies and theories to motivate their employees and benefit their organization to achieve desired results.
ORGANISATIONAL BEHAIOUR THEORIES
Organizational theories helps to motivate workers and employees so that they can perform their jobs in the best possible manner contributing to overall development of the organization. These provide courage and motivation to the employees in order to improve their working skills.
There are two best known names for the development of theories :-
Parlov who developed theory of classical conditioning and
Skinner who developed theory of instrumental conditioning.
Classical Conditioning is the type of learning made famous by Pavlov’s experiments with dogs. It is used by trainers to condition (train) autonomic responses, such as the drooling, producing adrenaline, or reducing adrenaline (calming) without using the stimuli that would naturally create such a response; and, to create an association between a stimulus that normally would not have any effect on the animal and a stimulus that would. Classical conditioning reflects how an organism learns to transfer a natural response from one stimulus to another. It is association between two stimuli.
This theory is difficult to explain wide variety of observable human behavior, specially issues involving complexity. It does not allow for choice in the response options available to humans and applied in daily life. It deals with cognitive thought process.
Operant conditioning forms an association between a behavior and consequences. This process has a wider application than the classical conditioning approach as it provides shaping of behavior in particular patterns. The basic assumption of operant conditioning is that behavior is influenced by its consequences
One of the distinctive aspects of Skinner’s theory is that it attempted to provide behavioral explanations for a broad range of cognitive phenomena. For example, Skinner explained drive (motivation) in terms of deprivation and reinforcement schedules.
PRINCIPLES OF OPERANT CONDITIONING
Some of the important principles of operant conditioning that can aid the manager to influence behavior:-
Managers often use positive reinforcer to influence behavior. A positive reinforcer is a stimulus which,when added to the situation,strengthens the probability of a behavioral response. It can be used to improve employee’s performance.
Positive reinforcement is highly effective and used for two reasons. Firstly, it is used for the direction or motivation of the actions of other people and secondly it uses versatile concept of reinforcement as an explanation of behavior. Many organizations uses positive reinforcements to increase productivity, decrease absenteeism and workplace accidents.
For Eg. An insurance company offered incentives at end of each month if the agent succeed to reach their target. Another example,chemical bank has set up programs to positively reinforce employee actions that lead to better customer service.
Positive reinforcement can be monetary rewards as well as non financial rewards such as recognition,merchandise incentives etc.
When positive reinforcements are used, the desired outcome is that the behavior is reinforced.
Negative reinforcement increases the frequency of a response following removal of a negative reinforcer immediately after the response. It strengthens the response as response removes some painful stimulus and enables the organization to avoid it.
For example, exerting high degrees of efforts to complete a job may be negatively reinforced by not listening to boss.
It relates to unpleasant reward for particular behaviors. It is defined as presenting an uncomfortable consequence for a particular behavioral response. It is increasingly used managerial strategy. This forms of reinforcements decreases the occurrence of the behavior in question.
Organizations typically use several types of unpleasant events to punish individuals.
Interpersonal punisher are used extensively including frowns,grunts,personal grudges and aggressive body language of an employee.
Punishments can also be materialistic i.e, cut in pay, demotion, final punishment can be firing of an employee,transfer to another job,etc
For example, punishing a worker who slows down the work may be an economically necessary step to alter behavior, another example can be “loss of pay.”
There can be negative affects of punishment,it can cause undesirable emotional reaction,another problem is control of undesirable behavior becomes restricted to manager’s presence only.
Extinction can be defined as decline in response rate because of non reinforcement.
It refers to stopping of the reinforcement,firstly it leads to reduction n eventually omission of reinforcement.
An example would be if an employee is not acknowledged despite of his or her tremendous work,he will finally stop doing so. This form of reinforcement decreases the occurrence of the behavior in question.
An important base for all these important principle is Thorndike’s classic law of effect’.
Managers must strategically balance between the use of pleasant and unpleasant events occurring in an organization in order to meet their desired outcomes. However positive management procedures dominates in any well-run organization.
Before applying reinforcements in an organization,managers also need to know as to when reinforcements should be used in order to influence level and rate of continued repetition of desired behavior.
For this it is important to know the Schedules of Reinforcement.
SCHEDULES OF REINFORCEMENT
In an organization it is very essential to time the rewards and punishment and timing of these outcomes is known as reinforcement scheduling. There are different results of timing and frequency of reinforcement. Reinforcement schedules is widely used to explain different process of workplace such as absenteeism,motivation,different payment systems.
Continuous and Intermittent Reinforcement
Continuous reinforcements means that the behavior is reinforced each time it occurs and is the simplest schedule of reinforcement. If the reinforcement does not occur after each response ,an intermittent reinforcement schedule is being used.
Ferster and Skinner argued that there are two basic types of intermittent schedules. First there are those schedules in which reinforcement occurs at fixed number of desired responses,secondly, there are schedules where reinforcements occurs regularly or irregularly. By combining these two ideas four intermittent schedules are made which they believe has different effects on behaviors.
Four types of intermittent schedules are :-
1. Fixed Interval Schedule
In fixed interval schedule,a constant amount of time should pass before a reinforcer is provided. In other words behavior pattern almost stops after a reward until the next interval .
An example may be praise employee’s performance once a week and not at other times or payment of employee’s must be done weekly,biweekly or monthly. This is an monetary reinforcement that comes at the specific period of time.
2. Variable Interval Schedule
It represents changes in th amount of time between reinforcer. Variable reinforcer varies in time and predictability.
Examples of variable interval schedules would be managers giving special recognition to employees for successfully completing projects and promoting them to higher-level positions . If the manager does not changes its schedule,employee would anticipate his tours and adjust their behavior accordingly to be rewarded.
3. Fixed Ratio Schedule
In fixed ratio schedule ,the behavior which you desire must occur number of times specifically before reinforcement takes place. It produces high reinforce rate at closing of reinforcements.
For example,paying employees weekly checks that is determined to be paid in expected time.
4. Variable Ratio Schedule
Unlike fixed ratio,variable ratio schedule varies in the number of repetitions of desired behavior. There is a high rate of responding in this schedule. Managers often uses variable ratio with praise and recognition.
For example ,In an organization bonuses or special awards are given after varying numbers of desired behaviors .
Variable ratio schedules produces desired behavioral change which is consistent and very resistant to extinction.
ORGANISATION APPLICATION OF BEHAVIOURAL MODIFICATION
Organizational behavioral modification is a more general term coined to designate “the systematic reinforcement of desirable organizational behavior and the non reinforcement or punishment of unwanted organizational behavior.
It is based on an assumption that behavior is more important than psychological causes (needs, values,motives held by individuals)(7)
Application of behavior modification in organization follows step by step process:-
1. Managers must define and identify the behavior specifically. When a behavior is observable and can be recorded then it is being pinpointed. To be pinpointed as an important behavior,there must be positive answers to these questions:
> can it be seen ?
>Can it be measured?
2. Pinpointed behaviors must be counted by the managers as it provides a clear perspective of the strength of the behavior at the present or before change situation. By graphing these data ,managers can determine whether behavior is increasing or decreasing or remaining at the same.
3. ABC analysis should be conducted any managers of an organization. ABC refers to antecedents (analyzing antecedents of actual behavior), behavior (pinpointing critical behavior) and consequences (indicates contingent consequences).
This helps managers to analyze performance analysis questions significant in programs. Questions may be:-
> Does the employer know what is expected?
> Have they been communicated?
> Are they clear about the standards?
> Can the behavior be performed?
> Could the employee do it if his or her life is dependent on it?
> Does something prevent its occurrence
> Are the consequences weighted in favor of performance?
> Do we note improvement even though the improvements may still leave
the employee below company standards?
> Is the reinforcement specific?
4. Manager describes action plan and strategies after setting the first three steps. The strategies for strengthening desirable performance and weaken undesirable behaviors are positive reinforcers, negative reinforcers, punishment and extinction.
Generally managers tends to use positive reinforcement in applying behavior modification programs but identifying it is not so easy. It can be identified by asking subordinates what’s rewarding and another method can be by doing surveys asking about job preferences.
5. The last steps involves evaluation. This step is essential as it tells manager to review changes in behavior before the implementation of the program. Evaluation permits managers to measure performance on an ongoing basis. It also provide feedback to managers which help them to take corrective measures if any.
Behavior modification helps to understand workplace behavior by making connections between stimulus,response and contingencies. Reinforcement theory is an important explanation of how people learn behavior. It is often applied to organizational settings in the form of a behavioral modification program. Although the assumptions of reinforcement theory are often criticized, its principles continue to offer important insights into individual learning and motivation.
Assessing behavioral modification programmes in an organization has evolved a technique known as meta analysis. This collect studies using different sample sizes and weight them accordingly. One meta analysis of a larger number of studies found a 93 percent success rate which appeared in different target behavior and organizational settings.
Organizational behavior modification is used widely among several organizations which includes united air lines,General electric, Proctor and Gamble, Michigan bell telephone etc. Organizational behavior modification is making and can make a positive contribution to organizational behavior. Absenteeism rates,quality of productions and employee safety behaviors appear to improve more often than not when using Organizational behavior modification.
Hence a manager should understand that the employee’s are the most important aspect of an organization success, and towards the realization of its goals and so every employee must be motivated in doing his function. Motivation is significant factor in persuading a certain employee to work at his best . Therefore, it is essential that reinforcement strategies should be continuously conceptualized and implemented in order to sustain employee’s positive attitude towards his work.
Employees tend to loose their interest in their work over long periods of time; so continuous reinforcement strategies are implemented to sustain employees’ desire to finish their job.
The strategies are based on Douglas McGregor’s two different assumptions (Theories X and Y).
> There must be continuous coercion and control of employees.
> They must be directed always on what to do.
Continuous monthly reward must be given to employees to boost their self confidence and improve organization’s desired outcome.
By using certain theories and strategies ,managers can help in reinforcing their employees by fulfilling their needs, giving them bonuses,treating them equitably,making them satisfied ,more goal oriented and focused, resulting in high outputs to an organization.
RESTRAINING FORCES BLOCKING IMPLEMENTATION OF CHANGE IN EMPLOYEES
Kurt Lewin ,developed a management technique known as Force field analysis and is used to overcome resistance to change in an organization.
According to Lewin, there are driving and restraining forces which influence any change that may occur in a situation.
Driving forces are forces that tends to initiate a change and keeps it going. pressure from a supervisor, competition may be some examples of driving forces in an organization.
Restraining forces are forces acting to restrain or decrease the driving forces. For example, poor maintenance of equipment may restraining forces against increased production in an organization.
In a group process, there are always some forces that favor the change and some forces that are against it. Therefore an equilibrium should be established and it is reached when the sum of the driving forces equals the sum of the restraining forces.
To make the employees accept the changes, manager should push driving forces and convert or immobilize the restraining forces.
HINDRANCES TO OD CHANGE PROGRAMS
Uncertainty regarding change
Employees resist change due to the uncertainty and ambiguity associated with the old ways of doing things. Generally,people tend to become more independent and active as they grow older and wiser in a firm. They become anxious accepting changes,they have “fear of unknown”.they are filled with insecurity due to lack of information in new techniques.
Threats To Position Power
This type of threat is often seen in top management,which threaten them to lower their status or prestige in a group during the process of change.
Every individual have social needs. While working in an organization employee becomes members of certain informal group and so,any change or new adjustment will bring a fear among them. The stronger the group ties,the greater the resistance of change.
Threat to specialization.
Any change in organization may also threaten the expertise of specialized groups. For example, giving specialized training to all the employees was perceived as a threat by the experts in an organization.
Threat to insecurity
Safety and security are high priority for every individual. and this is the major factor for resistance to change especially on the job front. When employees feel that the security of the job is at the stake due to the change, they resist it.
WAYS TO LESSEN RESISTANCE
It is very important for the managers to overcome the resistance of change in employees by using some of the following strategies:-
One of the foremost reason for resistance to change is inaccurate information or in other words “lack of communication”.
Thus effective communication program can help in overcoming this resistance. Managers should give necessary information about any change, its process and its working through training class and conferences. Reasons for change must also be communicated very clearly among employees. This will help in making employees understand about the necessity of change in an organization.
Participation and Involvement:
Participation and involvement can help employee to accept changes in an organization. It helps in removing their doubts and to win their cooperation in the change process. This involvement of the workers can obtain personal commitment and increase the quality of the changed decisions.
Negotiation and Agreement:
Negotiation and Agreement technique is very useful and can make change go much smoothly. For example, union agreement, transferring employee to other divisions etc.
Leadership plays an important role in overcoming resistance to change. A capable leader can reinforce a climate of psychological support for change. A strong and effective leader can exert emotional pressure on his subordinates to bring about the desired change. (8)
Managers may choose to coercion if all other methods fail. Coercion may be in form of explicit or implicit threats involving loss of jobs, lack of promotion, etc.
Managers sometimes dismiss employees who resist change. It can seriously affect employee’s attitudes and may also have adverse consequences in the long run.
Managers consider change to be an important ingredient to the success of any organization and therefore it is extremely essential for them to overcome restraining forces of change amongst their employees ,using such strategies and techniques. Gaining acceptance of proposed changes is the foremost job of the management as it directly focuses on Organizational Development.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive nor the most
intelligent but the one most responsive to change”
– Charles Darwin
Reinforcement theory deals with motivating and influencing behavior of employee. It is sometimes also referred as operant conditioning. In order to understand manager and employee’s perspective it is important to know the organizational behavior techniques and theory.
Reinforcement theory shapes individual behaviors and so organization uses this theory to influence their employees. There are several principle of this theory which include positive reinforcement which is in terms of some monetary reward or non financial rewards,negative reinforcement which include dismissal or some kind of negative activity taken by managers, punishment and extinction.
Then it is also important to understand as to when this theory should be applied by the management and so its scheduling is also significant aspect. Reinforcement scheduling can be continuous schedule or intermittent schedule.
Further this paper focuses on application of this organizational behavior theory by the managers ,explaining manager’s actions and controls.
It also focuses on restraining forces blocking implementation of changed program established by manager and later it also describes how to overcome resistance to these changes.
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