PROTECT YOUR ENERGY, Business & Sanity: Avoid 1 Wrong Person
There is one smart choice based on one simple truth that will save you thousands of hours, dollars, and frustrations in your business, personal life, and inner life.
When I did team mediation, I always wondered how one negative person could have so much influence over a whole team. It seemed one positive person didn’t have the same exponential effect.
Then I started noticing this phenomenon everywhere. And soon, I discovered lots of interesting research to support it.
This research can be summed up in one phrase:
Bad Weighs More Than Good: Choose Accordingly.
Knowing this one fundamental truth of reality will protect your energy, your business, and your sanity. Let’s be specific:
- An unhappy customer can do more damage than a happy customer can do good.
- Criticism can do more damage than praise can build.
- A dishonest person can do more damage to your business than an honest person can help it.
- A bad hire can do more damage than a good hire can benefit you.
- Bad habits are more contagious than good ones.
- Bad news is tougher to hear than good news is to celebrate.
- And the list could continue.
Protect Your Energy & Business: Here is the Research (Bad Multiplies. Good Only Adds.)
- An Unhappy Customer is 2-3x More Likely to Post a Review
An unhappy customer who has had a bad experience with your business is two to three times more likely to write a negative review than customers who had a great experience are to post a good review. And once that bad review is posted, it takes several good reviews to counteract it.(Dublino, 2023)
- Bad Economic News Hurts Twice as Much as Good News
In one study, they found that economic downturns have twice as much impact on a person’s happiness as equivalent upturns. This is data from 151 countries and was gathered from many various data points. People experience losses more acutely than they do gains or periods of growth. (De Keulenaer et al., 2014)
- Dishonesty is 37% More Likely to Spread When a Dishonest Person is Hired
Honest employees are more likely to commit misconduct if they work alongside a dishonest individual. The honest employees do not influence the dishonest employee to do the right thing. A study found that financial advisors are 37% more likely to commit misconduct if they encounter a new co-worker with a history of misconduct. This result implies that misconduct has a social multiplier of 1.59 — meaning that, on average, each case of misconduct results in an additional 0.59 cases of misconduct through peer effects. (Dimmock & Gerken, 2018)
- Avoiding a Bad Hire Saves You More Money than Getting a Good Hire (More Than Twice as Much).
Avoiding a bad hire will cost you 12,500 in cost savings. Getting a good hire will save you 5,300 in cost savings. A Harvard Business School study of more than 60,000 employees found that “a superstar performer–one that models desired values and delivers consistent performance” brings in more than $5,300 in cost savings to a company. Avoiding a toxic hire, or letting one go quickly, delivers $12,500 in cost savings. (“Harvard Research Proves Toxic Employees Destroy Your Culture and Your Bottom Line,”)
- Bad Habits are More Likely to Spread to Others Than Good Habits.
Poor fitness among friends is more likely to spread than good fitness. A study in which college students were assigned to spend most of their time with 30 other randomly chosen undergraduates shows that people may adopt the diet and exercise patterns of the least fit within a peer group, says a team led by Scott E. Carrell of the University of California-Davis.
The data suggests that if half of your friends were to become among the least fit (for reasons unrelated to you), your own fitness level would drop by nearly 20% of a standard deviation. The people most susceptible to being influenced by the least fit are those who are already struggling to maintain their fitness, the researchers say. (“Is poor fitness contagious? Evidence from randomly assigned friends,”)
Protect Your Energy & Your Sanity: How I Saved Mine
Instead of being discouraged by this reality, it strengthened me. I know that in moments of weakness, we are all tempted to let in the bad “just this once” or “just to get through this difficult period”. A one-time thing. Really.
In my own life, I made the same excuses. I had a house to rent and needed to get it rented. A young professional woman called and made an appointment to view it. She had good credit, a good job, seemed nice, and was ready to pay rent that day. What could possibly be wrong? We parted company and I thought the deal was done.
But then the negotiations started. She didn’t want an 18-month lease because her job might change. She didn’t want to make the first and last rental payment because her car had just been repaired and the bill was high. She didn’t want…it kept going. Every part of the contract needed to be changed, annulled, or redone.
Protecting My Energy & Business: “When a Person Tells You Who They Are, Believe Them the First Time”
Everything needed to be an exception for her. I made the first concession (trying to be reasonable and accommodating). A few days later, the next request was made. I conceded. Reluctantly. Over the next week, another request was made.
Enough! I was done. I wrote her an email in response to her latest requested exception. “I appreciate your interest in the rental, but this isn’t going to work. I made it clear from the beginning what the terms were. I was willing to work with you initially in an attempt to be helpful and create a win-win we could both live with. I wish you the best in your house hunting.”
It Was All My Fault
By then I had her number. She was toxic, entitled, never going to be satisfied, and everything was someone else’s fault. As I sent the last email, I thought to myself, “Her next move will be an email to me telling me how I was to blame because I was xyz (fill in the blank with some inadequacy, criticism, etc.). As if on cue, the next morning, I got an email saying that I was unprofessional. I just laughed and shook my head. In a long career, if there was one thing I was known for, it was my professionalism.
The house was rented to a wonderful couple who could not have been more gracious, personable, and responsible. Truly a delightful couple and a joy to work with.
Warren Buffet said, “Be associated with people you like. I only work with people I like. If I could make $100 million with a guy who causes my stomach to churn, I’d say no.” (Schwantes, 2022) You will be relieved to know the rent was not 100 million. (I told you I was reasonable!)
Seriously, more than once in my nightly “gratitude” ritual (where I list 5 things, I am grateful for), this dodged-that-bullet goes on the list often. I am so thankful I never rented to this person. This has served as one of my “object lessons” on the bad-weighs-more-than-good scenarios in my own life.
Guard Your Energy, Even (Especially) When Money is Involved
When money is involved, there is often pressure. You need to get a house rented. You need to get an employee hired. A “problem client” is endlessly making demands, but not wanting to pay for it. You need to correct an employee and are careless with your words, so your words sound more like criticism than correction.
We have all done it.
So, how do you Protect Your Energy, Business, & Sanity by Avoiding the Bad Person at All Costs? Here are 4 Tips:
- Create strong barriers against the bad. Correct mistakes early. Prevention is better than cure. Don’t say to yourself, “Well, this person is so competent…so charming…so exceptional, but not really honest, fair, fill in the blank….” Don’t do it. Don’t hire them. Don’t let them in your circle. The costs will never outweigh the good.
- Pile on the Good. If the bad weighs more than good, then you need to pile on the good. Be effusive. Complimentary. Okay. Don’t gush but be proactively positive. It takes a lot to outweigh the bad. Pile it on. Genuinely.
- Use a 5:1 Ratio: You know now that the good-to-bad is not a 1:1 Ratio.
I used to think one compliment counterbalanced one criticism. False.
I used to think that one honest person counterbalanced one dishonest one. False.
I used to think one positive team member could counteract one negative one. False.
Now I know better, so I use the informal formula of 5:1. This formula isn’t backed by research, but it’s held me in good stead. I use it. Five compliments for one criticism. Five good reviews for one bad. If you need to give “constructive criticism” to someone, you need to compliment them 5x for every criticism. You get the idea.
- Lean Into the Pain
Finally, lean into the pain. You may have heard me use this phrase before because it’s one of my favorites. There is a natural tendency to avoid pain but given what we know about the high cost of avoiding it, you better lean into it. Avoidance multiplies the problem.
I got the phrase from watching a pro football player being interviewed about his sprained ankle. The interviewer said, “You probably avoid running on that sprained ankle.” He replied, “Oh no. You can’t do that. It will throw off all your moves. You have to lean into the pain.” Love that metaphor. Use it all the time.
Protect Your Energy, Business, & Sanity: Avoid Bad People
Of course, the challenge is to have the insight to discern healthy people from toxic people. Not always easy, but there are always red flags. And the take-away lesson is that no matter how much they bring to the table in good things, it won’t be worth it. Because bad weighs more than good. You’ve been warned. Protect Yourself.
De Keulenaer, F., De Neve, J.-E., Kavetsos, G., Norton, M. I., Bert, V. L., & Ward, G. W. (2014). Individual Experience of Positive and Negative Growth Is Asymmetric: Global Evidence from Subjective Well-being Data. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3Das0L5
Dimmock, S., & Gerken, W. C. (2018). Research: How One Bad Employee Can Corrupt a Whole Team. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://buff.ly/2Gptz8X
Dublino, J. (2023). How a Zero-Friction Approach Can Make You Money. Business.com. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3BoTIC9
Harvard Research Proves Toxic Employees Destroy Your Culture and Your Bottom Line. Inc. Magazine. Retrieved from https://buff.ly/2JzYAby
Is poor fitness contagious? Evidence from randomly assigned friends.
Schwantes, M. (2022, Sep 16). Warren Buffett Says Your Overall Happiness in Life Really Comes Down to 4 Simple Words. Inc. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3UnM17u