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How to Use Behavioural Modification

How to Use Behavioural Modification

How to Use Behavioural Modification

If you want to use behavioural modification techniques, the formula to remember is a simple as ABC - Antecedent - Behaviour - Consequence

People Management : How to Use Behavioural Modification

Antecedent = The situation as is was before the behaviour.

Behaviour = The behaviour itself, what the person did or said.

Consequence = The situation after the behaviour.

What is Behaviour modification?

Behaviour modification is based upon the idea that the behaviour can be understood, and then changed, only if you understand its context and its purpose.

Context = the antecedent situation.

Purpose = To gain beneficial consequences.

You can understand a particular behaviour if you ask yourself "what events led up to the behaviour", and "what events immediately followed the behaviour?"

  • We presuppose that something triggered the behaviour (the antecedent), and
  • That something happened as a result of the behaviour (the consequence).

The questions you need to ask yourself are:

A: Antecedent = What was the situation just before the behaviour? What was the trigger event?

B: Behaviour = What did the person do or say?

C: Consequence = What changes to the situation occurred as a result of the behaviour? Specifically, did the behaviour deliver any perceived benefit to the person acting?

Ask yourself: Did the person gain any advantage or benefit as a consequence of the behaviour? If yes, what was the benefit?

The assumption is that people tend to do things that provide them with an immediate benefit, and they avoid doing things that:

  • Does NOT provide them with an immediate benefit or
  • Delivers an immediate painful consequence.

If you want to change a person's behaviour you have the following options:

  1. Understand what the trigger events are and strive to remove them.
  2. Understand what the pleasurable benefits for the behaviour might be and strive to remove them.
  3. You might decide to deliver painful consequences to the behaviour ie to punish the behaviour.

The Consequences of Punishing Bad Behaviour

Be reticent of delivering painful consequences (punishment) to behaviours because punishing bad behaviour destroys relationships. It may also become the justification for bullying on the part of the manager.

The Consequences of Rewarding Bad Behaviours

For example: Imagine a child misbehaves in a supermarket, by shouting, screaming and crying. In order to shut him up for a while, the parent gives the child a bar of chocolate. Can you see that the parent may inadvertently be encouraging the bad behaviour and will likely see more shouting and screaming in the future?

Another example: Imagine a member of staff misbehaves in a meeting, by pointing and swearing. As a result, the other members relent and give the offender a concession, just to "keep him quiet". Can you see that the team may inadvertently be encouraging the bad behaviour and will likely see more pointing and swearing in the future.

  1. You should be very careful not to accidentally reward bad behaviour by giving pleasurable consequences to bad behaviour. Don't give concessions to bad behaviour.
  2. You should strive to ensure that NOTHING good happens as a result of bad behaviour. Don't let the bad behaviour pay-off, in any way.
  3. You can try punishing bad behaviour, but that often degenerates into a war of words, or a battle of wills, in which both parties tend to degenerate into punishing each other until the relationship becomes untenable, or a living hell for everyone.


1. Don't let the bad behaviour pay off in any way. After they see that their bad behaviour does not work to gain them any benefits, they will tend to stop and try something else.

2. The moment they do something else that is better, then reward the better behaviour.

3. Try to avoid becoming a punisher.

4. Try to modify people's behaviour by suggesting and then immediately rewarding better alternatives.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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