By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.
Decades of extensive research in psychology has revealed that people respond to rewards and punishments in the workplace.1Law enforcement officers are no exception. We are generally motivated to engage in, or refrain from, specific behaviors because of the rewards and punishments associated with those behaviors.
Private industry often links pay and other rewards to specific employee performance goals. High performance often results in pay raises, swift promotions and bonuses. Failing to live up to the performance standards in the private sector often means that a potential year-end pay bonus is denied or that an under-performing employee will be included in the company’s next round of reduction-in-force layoffs.
In the public sector, however, we usually do not think of using employee rewards. This is, at least in part, due to the nature of civil service rules that make using formal rewards difficult. Public sector employers generally cannot offer pay bonuses or an unscheduled promotion to reward excellent work.