Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Monday, April 14, 2014

If I were a manager…

Although I’m planning to pursue career in counselling and psychotherapy, we’ve seen many potential teachers and therapists come forward telling all about how they’d use Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) in their future careers. So I’d like to look at this task from a different angle and write about how I would use ABA if I were the manager at the restaurant I currently work for… as a waitress/barmaid.

I’ve been working there since last December. The staff has been e-mailed by the managers complaining about people not turning up for their shifts, being late, swapping the shifts with other staff members without noticing the managers, cancelling their shifts or calling in sick later than managers could arrange the swap. We’ve received the e-mails three or four times this year already. And I can guess where the problem lies. It’s not because the staff members are irresponsible employees per se. In fact, they don’t really like the job, that’s they sometimes choose not to turn up for their shifts. It has been shown that negative attitude towards one’s job is associated with increased absence from work (Barsade & Gibson, 2007). So how I could increase the employees’ satisfaction and decrease absenteeism using ABA?

The target behaviour is to make my employees turn up for their shifts. Let’s say I don’t want to change anything related to scheduling or provide free food/drinks because it would increase the expenses. What else can I do? First of all, we have to record the rates of absence from work for each employee. Then I would use positive reinforcement. I would reward them for attending their shifts by promising a prize draw at the end of the month for those whose attendance was perfect. Finally, I would have to monitor the behaviour in order to see if the intervention works. Wallin and Johnson (1976) found that a lottery based work attendance reward system could be a powerful supplement to an organization’s compensation system. 

Employee absenteeism has an adverse impact on production costs, sick pay benefits my cost a lot, so using a program under which employees can qualify for a monthly drawing providing they had perfect attendance and punctuality record for the month, can reduce employee absenteeism and its accompanying costs.


Barsade, S. & Gibson, D. (2007). Why does affect matter in organizations? Academy of Management Perspectives, 21, 36-59

Wallin, J. A., & Johnson, R. D. (1976). The positive reinforcement approach to controlling employee absenteeism. Personnel Journal, 55, 390-392.

Justina Pakulnyte (4th Blog) 

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