Organizational Behavior Modification: Definition & Example

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  • 0:00 What Is OB Modification?
  • 0:58 Positive Reinforcement
  • 1:57 Negative Reinforcement
  • 3:01 Punishment
  • 4:04 Extinction
  • 4:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Allison Tanner
If you want to modify employee behavior and encourage productivity, what can you do? This lesson discusses organizational behavior modification and how it can be used to adjust the behavior of your employees.

What Is OB Modification?

Imagine that you're the sales manager for a major tech company, B-Tech, in New York. In this position, you're in charge of making sure employees meet their sales quotas and follow company policies.

You believe that your department is successful because you are a firm believer in organizational behavior modification (OB Mod), also known as reinforcement theory. This means that you use various responses to encourage or discourage certain behaviors. Using this method, you help to reinforce sales quotas, timeliness to the office, quality of reports and customer service.

There are four components to OB MOD, and you emphasize each of them as you see fit. They are:

  1. Positive reinforcement
  2. Negative reinforcement
  3. Punishment
  4. Extinction

Depending on the behavior, you can use one or a combination of these four responses.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is your favorite way to encourage employee behavior because it refers to recognizing an employee for doing something good.

For instance, last week your employee Anna surpassed her sales quota by 25%. She did way more sales than you had asked. Since you want Anna to keep doing whatever it is that has allowed her to be so successful. In order to reinforce this good behavior, you gave her an extra 10% on top of her typical commission.

Now, you know it is important to use positive reinforcement randomly, so you don't always give out extra bonuses. Instead, sometimes you:

  • Give praise in front of other staff
  • Thank high sellers at the company meeting
  • Throw a random office party and tell everyone they can thank this specific employee for their extra hard work and earning the team a party.

Using different types of positive reinforcement and using it selectively will preserve its value. This is because too much positive reinforcement can becoming boring and make staff less interested in doing well.

Negative Reinforcement

You find negative reinforcement to be a personal relief. Negative reinforcement means that you stop using negative or unwanted consequences because an employee has improved the negative behavior.

For example, Mark would never turn in his company reports on time. You would have to pester him every week to turn them in. You finally set up automatic emails that he would receive three times a day, reminding him that his reports were due on Friday by 3:00 PM. When Mark turns in his reports on time, three weeks in a row, you stop sending him the reminder emails.

This is a clear example of how you can use negative reinforcement, but some of the other methods you use include:

  • Ceasing required overtime when staff regularly meet their sales quotas.
  • Stop holding daily sales pitch meetings when sales begin to increase.
  • No longer requiring employees to check in twice a day when their performance meets your desired standard.

In each of the negative reinforcement methods, you are able to ease up on employees who perform well, thus reinforcing their good behavior.


Punishment is by far your least favorite reinforcer. The purpose of punishment is to try to decrease this unwanted action by imposing an undesirable punishment. When you use punishment, it means that an employee has done something wrong or reduced their productivity, and you have to make sure that they know that it is unacceptable.

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