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Operant Conditioning and Behavior Modification

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     Behavioral conditioning has been talked about many times with development of children and parenting. However, this is also used in many other aspects in our lives, including the workplace. Though this happens in a variety of ways, one of the most basic behavioral conditioning seen in the workplace is the rate of pay. This paper explores some of these examples and delves in further to the conditioning that comes from the rate of pay.

     Behavioral conditioning, also known as operant conditioning, is the idea that we learn our behaviors on a base of action and consequence. In this theory, there are positive and negative reinforcements that are given after an action. This is often thought of with parenting. Saul McLeod gave an example of how this would work with children. He explained that if you were to try smoking as a kid, a positive reinforce would be getting in with the “in crowd”. However, a negative reinforcement would be if you were caught and punished from your parents. Parents often use this punishment/reward system to teach their children to do what is right. (McLeod, 2007)

     However, as people, we continue to be affected by positive and negative reinforcements around us. For example, many car insurance companies are using this behavioral conditioning. If you are able to drive for a set amount of time with no accidents you get a lower rate. However, if you get into an accident, the insurance premium then goes up. (What, n.d.)

     In a work setting, behavioral conditioning is used many times. One of the easiest to see and understand is the idea of pay. For the most part, people work because they have to, bringing in money for their families. That is an example of behavioral conditioning. If the employee spends the time at work, they receive the positive reinforcement of the money at the end of each pay period. There is also a negative reinforcement for when an employee decides to take a sick day or not show up. For a while, you do not get any pay. There is also a point where you may get fired, which is another form of negative reinforcement, by taking away the positive reinforcement. (Operant, n.d)

     Another form of behavioral conditioning can be seen when projects are assigned as well as completed. When an employee is put on a special project, employees either complete the project on time or they do not. By their actions, employers often give them reinforcement. Finishing a project on time may lead to an employee being trusted and being given more projects. While many people see this as a negative reinforcement because they receive more work, this is actually an example of positive reinforcement because of the increase of trust coming from the employer. (What, n.d)  This also often leads to other reinforcements. With enough projects that are completed on time and correctly, an employee may receive a raise or a promotion. However, if the employee does not complete their projects and assignments, the employee does not get any pay and will get fired.

     One large area where behavioral conditioning affects an employee’s pay is in a sales and commissions type of job. When an employee is required to make a sale in order to get commissions, they are positively reinforced by receiving the commissions. This also affects the amount that they receive based on their performance. If an employee was attempting to sell a car, for example, their behavioral conditioning would push them to sell a $20,000 car rather than a $5,000 car so they would receive the higher commission. (Writer, 2013)



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