Do you punish better than you praise?

Trigger Question #151

“In my office. Now!”

. . .

Does punishment work better than praise? Is the threat of punishment an effective deterrent? Does physical punishment (for example, being caned) leave a scar?

These questions mattered little to me until I became a parent. Until I became a parent, I was on the receiving end of punishment and praise, but had no say in the matter. Once I became a parent, I had a choice to make. But that’s another story.

Come to think of it, when I became a boss, I also had to choose. Should I punish or praise? Should I protest or pat? And is there a right time to do one or the other?

I don’t know, because I am not an expert. But I have first-hand experience. I have been punished and praised. I have been threatened with physical harm. And I have felt the business end of many a cane.

So, based on personal experience, here’s my opinion:

  • Does punishment work better than praise? It depends.
  • Is the threat of physical punishment an effective deterrent? No.
  • Does being caned leave a scar? Yes, and no.

You can figure out “it depends” and “no” for yourself. (Try these examples. Which works better, being praised for getting to work on time or being punished for regular tardiness? Would we have crowded prisons if threats of punishment worked well?)

I think my “yes and no” deserves clarification, because that’s the one most likely to cause nonsense at work. Caning often left a scar on my behind, but it faded. Hence the “no.” The cane left a scar on my mind… but only if I perceived the punishment to be unjust or unfair.

Here’s the rub for bosses and other managers. Praise and punishment are perception based. The person receiving the praise or punishment will regard it differently to how the person who delivers the praise or punishment judges it.

And if you forget that, at home or at work, then someone with a bum will be glum.

. . .

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.

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