Behavior modification, a well-known system of motivation, is an attempt to change behavior by manipulating rewards and punishment. Behavior modification stems directly from reinforcement theory. The techniques of behavior modification apply to both learning and motivation Behavior modification in organizations, often called OB Mod, frequently takes the form of a companywide program administered by the human resources department
The typical OB Modification program follows a five-step problem-solving model:
1. Identifying critical behaviors
2. Developing baseline data
3. Identifying behavior consequences
4. Developing and implementing an intervention strategy
5. Evaluating performance improvement
Critical behaviors make a significant impact on the employee‟s job performance; Developing baseline data determines the number of times the identified behavior is occurring under present conditions. Identifying behavioral consequences tells the manager the antecedent cues that emit the behavior and the consequences that are currently maintaining it. Developing and implementing an intervention strategy will entail changing some elements of the performance-reward linkage-structure, processes, technology, groups, or the task – with the goal of making high-level performance more rewarding. Evaluating performance improvement is important to demonstrate that a change took place as a result of the intervention strategy. OB Modification has been used by a number of organizations to improve employee productivity and to reduce errors, absenteeism, tardiness, accident rates, and improve friendliness toward customers.
Limitations of Behaviour Modification
While in general, some of the behaviour modification techniques, as discussed previously are effective in eliciting desirable behaviours from employees in work situations, there are some limitations that make these techniques ineffective in certain situations:
a. Behaviour modification is an overall structure and ignores individual differences. People have different needs, desires, values and abilities. They cannot all respond to the same stimuli in the same manner. For example, not all people value praise for their performance as a desired reinforcement.
b. Behaviour modification programs assume that extrinsic rewards are the key factors in behaviour modification and they ignore the fact that employees can be intrinsically motivated. The extrinsic rewards in the form of money and praise primarily satisfy the lower level needs, while there are some people who strive for higher level needs such as self esteem and self actualization which are satisfied by the nature of the job and pride in accomplishing such a job.
c. Behaviour modification ignores prevailing work-group norms. It is important for the management to recognize the power of work-group norms. Most people working together tend to be emotionally attached to each other, thus sympathizing with each other's needs, for example, strike and protests in sympathy with other striking unions in the same industry.