Negative Reinforcement

Posted in Human Resource Terms, Total Reads: 250

Definition: Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is a process of strengthening any desired behaviour by removing an adverse stimulus. Adverse stimuli can be anything that causes physical or mental discomfort. This term was described by B.F. Skinner in his Operant Conditioning Theory. It can also be used as a problem solving method by which hindrances can be removed before attempting a task.


This method is followed across organizations of varied types. From schools to corporate offices, even in our day to day life, negative reinforcement is used as a tool to eliminate unwanted behaviour and develop an appropriate attitude.


X plays computer games during his work hours. His manager Y notices this and starts monitoring him closely. Being constantly under supervision, X stops paying video games and focuses on his work.

In this scenario,

Adverse behavior: X’s habit of playing game at work hour

Discomfort: Work being neglected

This is removed by Y’s act of constant monitoring.

Negative Reinforcement used at workplace:

• Policy compliance: Every organization has standard policies and all employees are expected to adhere by those. These act as basic enforcers

• Weekly team meetings: The weekly team meetings help the employees understand the general behavioral and professional attitude and they are expected to display. The supervisors point out the mistakes and issues in the work thereby displaying the expected outcome

• Verbal / written reprimanding


• The employees understand the obstacles that are affecting their work and try to rectify them to adapt to the necessary behavior

• Rebuking one employee sets an example for their colleagues. Other employees understand the behavioral standard expected of them and try to meet up to that level


• This can have an unfavorable effect to the employee’s morale and can decrease their self-esteem and confidence in drastically

• The employee might start considering the workplace as unwelcoming

• As the work environment does not meet up to their inbuilt attitudinal need, this kind of a reinforcement may lead to presentism and the employee may lose the motivation of working

• Employee might perceive this type of reinforcement to be insulting and derogatory



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