Behavior Modification

Objection to Behavior Modification The fourth objection is to modifying behavior. It can be raised against all work routines and rules, including laws and standards of conduct. Yes, they modify behavior; that is what they are for. Yes, some people will spend a great deal of time figuring a way around them, and some will have to do that in order to do their job. A case in point is how performance is adapted to its measure; recall the old urban legend about sanitation workers watering down garbage because their productivity was measured by tonnage.

Then again, other people will ignore the spirit in favor of rigid application, as a case from Philadelphia reveals. This is the city portrayed as “corrupt and contented” at the turn of the century by muckraker Lincoln Steffens. Philadelphia’s extensive ethics code dates to 1963. A decision once issued by its commission prohibited municipal employees from being foster parents (who were defined as “contracted agents with the city”) because full-time employment meant that they could not receive additional government payments.

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