Reward or Punishment: What is more effective in a Workplace?

Motivated and disciplined employees are often the result of punishment or reward. A workplace is collective place of various individuals with different personality types. Some individuals might perform better under good rewards whereas, the others might perform better to a fear of punishment.

In workplace, the manager attempts to motivate staffs, promote them in the workplace by promising rewards. Likewise, they warn the staffs about the pain of punishments as well.

A boss or manager always wants his/her employees to do better and ideally the best. Managers get confused whether to punish or reward the staffs for the times they get things right.

Rewarding good performance and punishing problematic or undesired behaviors are the basis terms of motivation in any organizations. However, companies over time have found that rewards often reinforces positive behavior and motivate repetition. Likewise, punishment temporarily motivates compliance, but often leads to lower morale and less productivity in long run.


Rewarding behaviors draw the attention to the fact that an employee accomplished something or acted in a certain way that the company or the manager desires.

Rewarding the employees with promotions, and positive feedback is an effective way to motivate them.

For instance, an employee works in the company for the reward of an attractive monthly salary. Till the time it is very valuable for him/her, he/she will continue to strive for productivity and optimize performance to achieve maximum rewards.

There are certainly more than one way to do something right. But, when employees get rewarded, they don’t wonder what to do next time. It means that he/she can repeat or do the same thing again and again. Rewards somehow limits the employee’s ability to think in a creative manner and get better solutions of a problem.

For example, your company may develop a policy of rewarding employees every year based on a regularly scheduled annual review. The problem arises when the employees become conditioned to work hard prior to the reviews only.


Punishment in the workplace includes nagging an employee to complete the given tasks, making threats or hovering, verbal or written reprimands, pay cuts, demotions or suspensions for the work.

Punishment can be demotivating and mental torture for the employees as well. No matter how hard they work, if they still get negative feedback from their bosses or supervisors, they might lose the enthusiasm to work.

In most of the cases, people tempt to think “You have learned a lesson” means you got certain type of punishment. People often turn the word lesson into a negative term called punishment.

If punishment is applied before all of the facts are accounted for, then employees will develop a sense of rebellion in response to punishment rather than seeing it as a warning to a particular activity.

However, punishment is not inherently bad either. It is a concept that implies the application of values. Generally in workplace, some team members or individuals might find public recognition or rewards for something they have done. But for some being recognized in front of their peers might not be as cheerful as it sounds.

Sometimes, making mistakes can also be a better part of learning. If you have a good boss or a manager, he/she might teach or explain you not to make the same mistakes again.

Likewise, sometimes you make have to work extra hours as a result of your punishment. At that time, you get opportunity to learn lot more than the employees getting the rewards couldn’t. Everything is not about winning, sometimes it is also about learning.


In every workplace there may occur some behaviors that simply is unacceptable. Some of the examples could be failure of safety equipment, sexual harassment or abusive behavior that we deem are unacceptable. In these sort of cases, we cannot have a workplace without the existence of threat of punishments.

Rewards as well as punishments can both be rendered useless if the timing is bad or extremely worth when the timing is good. It totally depends on the kind of rewards or punishment. For both the employees and the manager or the boss, you need to be able to critically analyses the situations and decide what can be better.