January 23: What You Reward Gets Repeated

I have a 3 year old and have learned to reward good behavior and ignore undesirable behavior (as long as it is safe). Believe it or not reprimanding is a form of reinforcement. If the only time my girl gets noticed is when she acts out, not when she does good, she will do crazy stuff to get my attention.

I've noticed in organizations that people respond the same way. You may have process and mission statements in place, but if people are only noticed when they behave a certain way, they will repeat it, good or bad.

When I worked at Nordstrom the mantra was good customer service. In reality the only way to keep your job, and make a living, was to sell lots of stuff. This caused some compromises when it came to recommending products to customers.

It is difficult not to always suggest the high priced item when you are on straight commission. There was also competition on the sales floor for the limited customers available that lead to an environment that was not always customer friendly.

Yes Nordstrom encouraged and recognized good customer service. But day to day, and paycheck to paycheck the focus was on making money. The reward system was based on selling stuff, not serving customers, so in practice customer service was always second to getting paid.

How are people rewarded in your organization? Are you unintentionally rewarding the wrong behavior?