Bad is 5X Stronger Than Good

Bad pollutes good. Pour good water into polluted water and you have more polluted water. Negative experiences usually cling longer and captivate our attention more than positive.

bad apple

Throwing some good into some bad only damages the good.


Enough good renders bad ineffective. But, the proportions are disproportionate. Efficiency says, removing the bad is your better option.

One of my favorite chapters in, “Scaling Up Excellence,” by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao is, “Bad is Stronger Thank Good: Clearing the Way for Excellence.”

Successful leaders eliminate:

  1. Bad practices.

  2. Stifling processes.

  3. Nasty people.

  4. Destructive attitudes.

  5. Negative beliefs.

It’s not enough to accentuate the positive. You have to eliminate the negative.

“Excellence depends on a process that enables people to prevent and eliminate destructive attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.” Sutton and Rao

Send the bully home and the kids come out to play.

4 Ways to “Break Bad:”

  1. Nip it in the bud. Quickly deal with lack of cooperation, rudeness, laziness, or self-serving behaviors. When you see bad, shine a light on it.
  2. Get rid of bad apples. If you can’t remove them, put them all on the same team. With effective leadership they may produce dramatic results. Plus, they won’t pollute the “good” teams.
  3. Plumbing before poetry. Get moving on the gritty, small aspects of moving forward. A series of small useful wins helps dilute the power of negative.
  4. Time shifting. Get people to think about the person they hope to be, not just the person they are now.
The list above is four of the eight ways to break bad listed in, “Scaling Up Excellence.”

Leaders have more power to eliminate
bad than anyone else on the team.

Research on bad is stronger than good:

Measuring our Mood at Work
Bad is Stronger than Good (source of the 5 to 1 ration)

How can leaders eliminate the bad in their organization?