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How to use the positive reinforcing meeting.

How to use the positive reinforcing meeting

Supervisors hold counseling interviews for marginal performers and employees who have behavioral problems. At the other end of the spectrum, employers constantly search for new ways to honor their superstars. What about all those other workers in between--the ones who quietly get the job done day after day?

Average Ann and Andy may get their recognition only once a year, on annual performance appraisal day. Maybe not even then.

Effective supervisors practice management by walking around (MBWA), and they are great at one-minute praise for superior performance. But even if MBWA were to become a vehicle for giving recognition to average employees, a department might be so spread out that supervisors would not see some staff members for days on end. It's difficult to provide psychological support under those circumstances. Then there are supervisors who can't practice MBWA because their duties confine them to their offices or elsewhere.

If positive reinforcing comes largely from paying attention to employees, why not do it periodically in informal one-on-one meetings? That's the approach taken by Nail and Singleton,1 who call such meetings "positive conferences':

Each week a supervisor meets for about 10 minutes with a good performer. The employee is told that the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the satisfying aspects of his or her job and to review job-related goals. This purpose is made crystal clear, for in the past the employee may have been summoned to the boss's office only to be chewed out.

What should be sought is an adult-to-adult transaction with a mutual sharing of feelings about the employee's job and the department. Complaints are avoided. The supervisor expresses thanks for the employee's daily efforts and highlights specific desirable behavior and results: "Ann, I'm afraid we take your steady performance for granted. For example, I just realized you haven't missed a day of work in over two years. How great it would be if everyone in the lab racked up a record like that!'

The supervisor then activates employee input. What good things has the individual observed? What procedural, personnel, or physical changes seem to be working well? Have there been examples of good cooperation, extra effort, or teamwork? Who hasn't received sufficient credit? Can the employee suggest ways to improve efficiency, productivity, or quality?

Most employees feel good about having their opinions solicited and being listened to. Their self-esteem is boosted.

The meeting is also a good occasion to get progress reports on work or career objectives that were established at the last performance review. Delegation is certainly an appropriate topic; the employeee may be ready to assume more responsibility and authority.

It is important for a manager to tap into the organization's grapevine. While doing so is not the primary purpose of the meeting, scuttlebutt is bound to surface. On the other side of the desk, the employee will welcome any information about changes in the laboratory that are being contemplated or close to implementation. This is a good time for a supervisor to test the waters on such changes.

The meeting ends on an upbeat note with the supervisor again sincerely expressing appreciation, not only for the employee's job performance but also for his or her participation in the meeting.

An informal get-together of this kind has a distinct advantage over the formal performance appraisal meeting. The latter forces a supervisor into the role of judge or evaluator, thus creating an adversarial situation (often an adult-to-child transaction). In the positive reinforcing meeting, the supervisor is a supportive friend and an attentive listener. The relationship is collegial, not hierarchical.

Handled skillfully, the positive reinforcing meeting can be a powerful way to enhance employees' self-respect and improve their morale.

1. Nail, F.C., and Singleton, E.K. A common sense survival strategy for nursing supervisors Health Care Supervisor 4(2): 50-58, January 1986.
COPYRIGHT 1987 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:positive reinforcement for employee management
Author:Umiker, William O.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:May 1, 1987
Words:645
Previous Article:Management applications of workload recording; analyzing the sources of workload can improve laboratory activity forecasts and staffing plans.
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