Negative Positive Reinforcement

October 26 2020
By: Terry L. Mathis

Behavioral science teaches us that what gets positively reinforced tends to get repeated, and that repetition can lead to patterned behavior. If we are positively reinforcing safe behaviors, this is good. But often, what organizations reinforce is unsafe behavior. This is seldom done intentionally or maliciously, Negative Positive Reinforcement but is done nevertheless and still has the same results.

Every time a leader praises the organization's performance, or a supervisor rewards a worker's performance, there is the potential that the performance produced good productivity results, but was not done safely. When this happens, the underlying message sent is that it is okay to take risks as long as you produce well and don't get hurt. This type of performance is not really what most leaders and supervisors want, and is a ticking bomb for future accidents.

Make sure what you positively reinforce is EXACTLY what you want and not does not inadvertently reinforce risk taking!

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.

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