Last month I scrutinized the apparent focus on positive reinforcement in behavior-based safety (BBS). I specified critical distinctions between positive reinforcers and rewards, and pointed out flaws in the standard training protocol for teaching employees how to give interpersonal recognition.
My critique of the common steps given for delivering recognition, as delineated in numerous â€œpop psychologyâ€ books and at BBS workshops, was inspired by the book Praise for Profit, written by an experienced BBS consultant. In his 2005 book, Jerry Pounds questions his own 30-year history of teaching social reinforcement. He reports that thousands of managers and employees complained about the apparent manipulation and insincerity implicated in the applications of positive reinforcement he taught. And he notes he and his colleagues had elaborate, self-serving rationales for dismissing negative reactions to their recognition training and consulting.
Last month I also offered an alternative approach to social reinforcement, which is consistent with Jerry Poundsâ€™ perspective. Lest I give the impression Pounds and I are opposed to BBS, this month and next I present the strengths of a behavioral approach to industrial safety, as inspired by Poundsâ€™ recent book. Although I have made each of these points in earlier ISHN articles, it seems worthwhile to review them again. They reflect behavioral basics often overlooked in teaching and practicing BBS.