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Recognition Intervention Strategies

Philosophies of Motivation and their Relationships to Rewards [2.5.0.a]

In order to understand how employees are motivated by positive reinforcement, it is important to understand the basic concepts of motivation. Two broad philosophies, rational and behavioral, differ in their foundational beliefs about human nature.

Rational philosophy assumes that people are able to make assessments of their surroundings, and recognize and work towards goals. In relation to workplace recognition, this philosophy assumes that employees recognize rewards and actively choose to exhibit behavior that will elicit these rewards. According to this theory, the behavior comes first and the reward follows.

In contrast, behavioral philosophy assumes that all behaviors are learned, and that people are not able to recognize goals and work towards them. Behaviors are shaped by the reinforcement that is received. In the workplace, this theory assumes that if a person receives a reward for a certain behavior, they are likely to repeat that behavior again. The sequence in this philosophy differs from that in rational philosophy, in that the reward comes first and the behavior follows.

Studies have shown that a combination of these two theories best represents employee motivation in the workplace. The prospect of earning a reward motivates people (rational philosophy) only until the point at which they are satisfied with the amount of reward received. For example, employees are motivated by earning a pay raise until they have reached a point that they consider their salary satisfactory; then, they are no longer as motivated by the prospect of a raise. After the point at which rewards no longer motivate the employee, behavioral motivation programs can be used to elicit desired behaviors.

[1] Motivating employees, (n.d.). In Peninsula Builders Exchange. Retrieved from

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