Companies and managers think that if they intend to positively reinforce an employee's behavior or performance, then that is what they are doing. Unfortunately, that's not true. Additionally, many companies are decreasing or eliminating incentive structures due to "cost." What happens in the vacuum? Behavioral extinction.
Doing nothing is doing something for employee performance. Doing nothing to reinforce a behavior leads to extinction of that behavior. In a down economy, extinction is epidemic. Look around your own company. Does anybody express that they don't feel appreciated or that they feel ignored? If so, we know extinction is occurring.
Management changes behavior by its action AND its inaction
When managers do nothing, they may be changing behavior in one of two ways:
- Making the desired behavior extinct, or...
- Allowing inappropriate behavior to be reinforced (i.e. with no clear consequences)
A positive word or a personal note cost nothing, and when phasing out or cutting back larger programs, are even more important. There are great low cost alternatives out there. Check out one of my previous posts for a comprehensive list.