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The Two Ways to Change Behavior: Energizing your Employees

The Two Ways to Change Behavior: Energizing your Employees


Behavioral psychologists agree that there are two ways to change behavior.

  1. Doing something before the behavior occurs (antecedents)
  2. Doing something after the behavior occurs (consequences)

It is critical that an organization initiating a culture change understand these elements and their roles in shaping employee behaviors.  Since antecedents come before the behavior occurs, they are called "setting events."  These events set the stage but do not cause the behavior to occur. 

Consequences follow behaviors and determine the probability of a behavior to reoccur.  A consequence will make a behavior occur more often or less often. 

Antecedents can make a  behavior occur once, but only a consequence can make a behavior happen again.  Many companies invest in expensive training, office or team design, etc., but these are only antecedents.  If management does not create validating mechanisms, lasting and consistent performance will suffer.

Antecedents initiate but cannot sustain performance, thus are inefficient and costly to manage performance. 


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