A major theory concerned with motivation at work, the operant conditioning or reinforcement theory of B. F. Skinner emphasizes the role of the environment, particularly the consequences of our behaviors. Unique in the social sciences, it categorizes events by when they occur. Antecedents such as training, goals, and company policy typically take place before the target behaviors, whereas consequences (e.g., compliments and criticism) occur afterward. Antecedents alone fail to motivate workers to do things the right way day in and day out. Instead, the drivers of our motivation are performance consequences. To motivate workers to perform at their potential, primarily positive consequences are rearranged so that they frequently and consistently follow desired performance. Reinforcement theory also sheds light on why well-meaning managers sometimes act in ...

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