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“If logic dictated the world, it would be men who rode sidesaddle.” Paul Harvey (1918 – 2009), conservative American radio broadcaster. You have likely heard of behavioral conditioning. There

are two popular varieties of behavioral conditioning, Operant and Classical. Operant conditioning is a powerful form to affect behavioral change that was popularized by B.F. Skinner, a Harvard psychologist. Operant conditioning is recognized by a change in voluntary behavior in relation to a stimulus. A pigeon will learn to peck at a red dot that dispenses food as opposed to a blue dot that doesn’t dispense anything. This is commonly seen as the carrot on a stick theme. On the other hand, Classical conditioning, popularized by Ivan Pavlov, is characterized by changes in involuntary behavior. If you ring a bell, then give a dog a treat, the dog will change and become conditioned to salivate when the bell is rung even when no treat is delivered. These two conditions are considered positive reinforcements but the same holds true of negative reinforcements. How is this relevant to management? Isn’t this what we

do at work? Don’t we as managers try to modify or direct behavior using these methods? You do a good job you get rewarded; you make a mistake you get punished, simple carrot and stick motivation, praise and punishment methodology – and the research and science, as shown above, supports that contention. You are doing exactly what the academic data says. How is that working out for you? It probably isn’t

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working out as well as you would have liked, and you can’t figure out why. Are you still constantly plagued with workers not following the rules or safety policies even though you have tried everything from training, rewards, punishment, etc.? I’ll give you a clue; we are not pigeons or dogs, we are reasoning human beings. When you deal with a human with emotions, senses and biases, linear logic falls apart. Let me continue with this theme of destroying your

conventional wisdom and say that compliance is labor intensive, counter-productive, motivates only for the short term and is not a sustaining activity. What? Say it isn’t so! All those years in school studying management flushed down the drain. Let’s look at compliance. This sounds like a good thing;

we want our employees to be complaint, follow the rules, adhere to the regulations, work safely, blah-blah-blah. Being compliant isn’t a bad thing but it’s not the best thing. Employees will be compliant when they have to be complaint. They will follow the rules when they are being supervised. They will skirt the safety policy to accomplish a task and meet production if there is no oversight. “Those darn employees, they have to be watched constantly to ensure they stay complaint.” Aren’t we as managers just as guilty? “Clean up the shop – the VP of Maintenance is coming to visit.” Why isn’t it clean all the time? Because we are compliant when we have to be. To have compliant employees, you need constant supervision. Then to ensure that the supervisors





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