How managers can apply reinforcement theory

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.


The purpose of this assignment is to examine how managers apply reinforcement theory to shape and reshape employee behaviors to overcome restraining forces of change. In order to apply efficiently reinforcement theory for solving the problem about restraining forces of change, i intend to do this by examining what are including of restraining forces of changes? Why should we change? What is definition of reinforcement theory? Releasing the resistance of change based on the four types and schedule of reinforcement, by using strategies as well.

Behavioral theory focus on the consequences of past behavior effect on future actions. In addition, reinforcement theory suggested that individual can choose from several responses to a given stimulus, and that individual will select the response that has been associated with positive outcomes in the past. (B. F. Skinner)



In the case of globalization in twenty-first century, the only constant is official change. The technological, social, economic environment pace so rapidly. Consequently, in order to survive within the harshly business condition, the organization will need to adapt to these changing market condition, and simultaneously find the manner to deal with a quick renewing. Everyday managers cope with massive and accelerating of alteration, in contemporary businesses, manager always confront many problem such as

restructuring, downsizing, rightsizing, a crucial condition to attempt competitive advantage. Moreover, changing consumer lifestyle is caused also to change in organization; managers have to anticipate the trend of market and liking of consumer for enhancing competitiveness for organization. These changes may alter affair, strategic business, aim, behavior and interpersonal relationship, so that the winning organization must adapt these changes as soon as possible to be survival. In addition, organization have to recognize when it is necessary to change, and increase the ability to implement these changes when need.

For example: Hewlett-Packard is the largest company manufacture computer, in many previous year, they are always at the top of this sector by improving the quality and service after sale, especially, launching always new product to market to beat these competitor such as Acer, Dell, Asus…. To be the top of manufacture computer, HP has been always changing technological, style of product.



Even if people are uncomfortable with current situation, they may be afraid of any alterations will be perturbation and only make status worse. Indeed, fear of new conditions is evident and it creates negative response to give up familiar tasks or relationships may cause resistance to change. Employee are afraid of change because they have to learn something new, especially for the old people, they may be haven't enough ambition and ability to update new technological, new skill. They are possibility anxious of creating new relation with their new collaborator. Organization fear to change as well, it

have to change system that have been founded for several years. Changing system means alteration all the tasks, partner, manner administration, need a lot of time to form the new system working properly.

There are some factors leading to change resistance:

Uncertainly regarding change- " The comfort zone"

Working in the familiar way for a long time, process of completing job is predictable. This is a habit that employee not easy to give up.

Fear of the unknown

Exchanging the habit for something new may causes people frightening. All most employee want to work at the security environment, and want to work at the same way, understanding their coworker ,and know to whom they are supposed to answer and submit report daily.

Disruption of routine

Change that make the system or pattern more disruptive and it encountered resistance because people want to keep going in the same way. Alteration the habit or routine may lead to be conflict for people, they can forget some learning

Loss of existing benefits

Every change cause people to be more pressured, they may consider change as a loss of benefit.

Loss of existing benefits such as: loss relationship with current collaborator, loss condition and position work, reduction in wages, opportunities to develop career encountered barrier.

Threat to position power

Prestige or competence of individual or group will be threatened by changing. The group is going to resist change when a proposed changes occurring to be harmful to outcome and interest of any group.

Threat to security

People tend to resist change because change may threaten the security of their environment. They may be anxious about their interest such as: loss of job, reduce promotional potential, reduction in wages or benefits, an increase competitive in job demand.

Redistribution of power

One of these factor causes resistance change is that individual or group perceive that change will reduce their power, instead of making decision or do business by themselves, they must enquiry other's idea. Therefore they may fell downgrade in organization.

Disturb existing social network

Social network or current relation may be threatened by change. People may perceive isolate when co-operating with new partner, uncomfortable when living in strange environment.

Conformity to Norms and Culture

Norms is things have been founded for long time, everyone work and behave each other due to norms. Therefore, norms is very difficult to change

The change process may be more difficult of there are people exclusion old group because of unrelated with group

The organization culture includes the language, dress, and pattern of behavior, value system, feelings, attitudes, interactions, group norms of the members. It is difficult to change the ways of behaving in organization without influence by the other part. (Judith Gordon, 2002)



Reinforcement theory is the process of shaping behavior by controlling consequences of the behavior. In reinforcement theory, a combination of rewards or punishments is used to reinforce desired behavior or extinguish unwanted behavior. Attempts to influence behavior through the use of reward and punishment that are consequences of the behavior are called Operant conditioning. Reinforcement theory concentrates on the relationship between the operant behavior and the associated consequences, and is sometimes referred to as operant conditioning. Operant are behavior that can be controlled by altering the consequences that follow them. Most workplace behavior such as performing job-related tasks, reading a budget report, or coming to work on time are operant. A number of important principles of operant conditioning can aid the manager in attempting to influence behavior. (B.F. Skinner)

Four types of reinforcement following:

Positive reinforcement

Manager often use positive reinforcement to give rewards or good evaluation when the desired behavior appears. For example, an employee success to get advantage contract for organization, so manager encourages the reinforced or rewarded behavior to reappears. A positive reinforcement is a stimulus to encourage people in struggling more and more. If the employee does not act as the manager wants, the manager may selectively reinforce behavior, each time encouraging the employee to act closer what manager want. For example, each time when a employee sale a lot of product per month, manager might praise him. The manager would discontinue praising the employee when product sale is slowed down.

Negative reinforcement

Negative reinforcement used to describe encouraging a person to avoid undesirable consequences. And remove self-satisfied of person when attempting some achievement


Extinction means reducing unwanted behavior, extinction eliminates an undesired behavior by a manager's withholding positive reinforcement.

When positive reinforcement for a learned response is withheld, individuals carry on practicing that behavior for some period of time. However, after a while, if the non-reinforcement continues, the behavior will decrease in frequency and intensity and will eventually disappear.


Punishment is used to face by bad consequences for a special behavior of employee. It can remove unwanted behavior of employee by having manager's negative action. However, punishment is often used as a last way to reshape the employee's behavior because it can make the bad consequences and make more pressure and stress for employee. In addition, punishment could make a worse outcome for organization if employee strongly disfavor. Moreover, punishment is difficulty reshape behavior to employee because it does not create a second chance to employee putting effort for the next action.


Application of reinforcement to shape and reshape behavior employee to overcome restraining force of change

How overcome uncertainty regarding change-" The comfort zone"

All most people are comfortable in doing everything that they had in the past. In order to make change people to do the new things, a positive reinforcement is implementing. Manager should educate their employee new skill to adapt to the new work. Communication with employee and explain clearly plan to change, and commit the benefit that bring to employee in future.

How to overcome fear of unknown

Each time when organization change working system, all most employee may reveal undesirable behavior related to exchanging habit, and anxiety about the new system, they wonder how the new system operates properly, what is their new task? Who is their new boss? Fear of unpredictable things may create unwanted behavior in favor to change. A positive reinforcement may be used to solve this problem. Manager need to explain the old condition is no more suitable for organization's operation, and it's time to change for adapting to new condition business. In addition Manager need also explain how effect of change influence to employee. Moreover, manager must commit a good recompense, and opportunities to develop career, and increase wages as well. Ensuring a security environment for employee, organize one meeting to introduce between the old and new staff.

When the working environment, opportunities to develop career, wages are ensured, employee will reveal driving force to change readily.

How to overcome disruption of routine

Routine has been founded for several years; disruption routine is not easy of accepting, agreement of employee. In order to encourage employee and eliminate undesirable behavior's employee, Extinction reinforcement may be used to solve this problem. Managers need to encourage employee to participate in a planning and implementing a change are better understanding the reason to change. When participating in process of change, employees get one hand in new job; they will fell unfamiliar with new system. They are readily going to be satisfied new job without anxiety. Moreover, educating employee the result of change, explain clearly about the organization's operation after changing. When uncertain things reduced, employees are more likely accept to change.

How to overcome loss of exciting benefit

Benefit is always the most concern of employee when contributing to organization. When their benefits are ensured, they will try their best to contribute to company's operation. Therefore, when organization changes to new working system in adapting to current business condition, employees are concerned about losing exciting benefits. Negative reinforcement is used to solve this problem. Manager need to encourage employee instead of being self-satisfied with current achievement, they need to put more effort to achieve bigger goal. Manager needs to explorer a future plan that brings the bigger profit for organization. This plan should be convinced to employee. Manager should commit benefit for their staff when organization changing. Employee may loss their current benefits, but due to commitment and plan in future, they can get more benefits.

How to overcome threat to position power

Apart from benefit, prestige and respect are also the important factor that employee frighten when organization changing. They are afraid of being usefulness for organization. In order to eliminate this unwanted behavior, both positive and extinction reinforcement is used. Manager should measure exactly competence, skill of each employee to arrange them to suitable position when organization changing. Manager should adjust salary toward increase for employee, and commit a important position, role for old employee before recruitment new employee to maintain hierarchy of organization. After intervention, manager again measures the performance to determine the desire effect has been achieved. If not, manager must redesign the strategy or repeat the entire process changing for employee, insist the importance of change, and also the importance role of employee during process of development of organization.

How to overcome threat to security

Live and work in a security environment is a fundamental demand of people. All of employee wants to be ensured a working security environment, they cannot focus on job when their position, their interest have been frightened. In order to face by this problem of employee, extinction reinforcement is used. First, Manager should first identify the potential impact on employee when changing and then prepare well a communication with them about proposed change. Manager negotiates with employee about policy salary adjustment. Commitment one legal environment, competitiveness, motivated to employee. When all of things are secured, they are more likely to change.

How to overcome redistribution of power

Prestige and respect in work is always important factor of employee. They are may be afraid of their power will be reduced when alteration in organization occurs. In order to reduce this fear of employee, extinction reinforcement may be used. Therefore, event operation system of organization changing by alternative manner, manager should evaluate, measure the important role of each staff within company's operation. Look for suitable staff to new system, then manager should distribute full of power for these staff, then they can plenipotentiary make decision by themselves, and responsible about their decision. Trust, respect employee are a good manner to reduce their resistance to change.

How to overcome disturb social networking

Social networking includes friendship, relation with coworker. These relation have been founded for several years, it's not established rapidly. Employee may fell isolating when co-operating with new coworker and current relationship may be disruptive due to change of organization.

In order to maintain social networking in organizations, extinction reinforcement is used. Manager should encourage their employee to participate in a change program, join a group to implement a change program, so that they will creep up on familiar with new coworker. Because this is a emotional resistance, so manager may force people to accept to change by explicit or implicit threat including loss of promotion, loss of job while not adapt with new situation.

How to overcome conformity to Norms and Culture

Norm and culture of organization have been established for long time, all of employee has a habit working due to current norms; therefore change to a new norms and culture that is very difficult. In this case, punishment reinforcement is used to solve. Manager should force to employee accepting to change, if someone intentionally does not change, they will be forced to punishment such as, reduction wages, or fired.


Change is very important in a twenty one century, the constant is change. Change to adapt the new business condition, change to achieve more competitiveness. In a process of change, employee resist to change because their anxiety about fear of unknown , uncertainty regarding change, disruption of routine, loss of existing benefits, threat to position power, threat to security, redistribution of power, disturb existing social network, conformity to norms and culture. However, reinforcement theory is applied by manager to shape and reshape behavior of employee to overcome restraining force of change. Moreover we have also some strategy to less resistance to change such as: education, communication, participation employee in change program, facilitation and support…..