Accentuate the positive vs. Eliminate the negative?
Certainly, every leader should try to do both. Yet, given that you have limited time, attention, and resources, an interesting question is: which should take priority? A growing body of research indicates that it's more important to eliminate the negative.
This Growth Tip is our summary of an article written by Professor Bob Sutton from Stanford University.
"Bad is Stronger than Good." Studies show that negative information, negative experiences, and negative people have a far deeper impact on us than positive ones.
The “5 Times” rule. In the context of romantic relationships – unless your positive interactions with your partner outnumber negative interactions by a ratio of 5 to 1, the relationship is likely to fail.
Yes, it takes 5 good interactions to outweigh every bad interaction.
Obviously, we want to maximize the number of good interactions we have with people, but studies suggest that managers will get more bang for their buck if they focus on eliminating the negative rather than accentuating the positive.
The effect of “toxic” people in work groups is revealing. People who exhibit - grumpiness, negativity, disrespect, selfishness, or laziness will drag the performance of your other team members down. These rotten apples infect everyone else. A team with just one person who exhibits any of these behaviors suffers a performance disadvantage of 30% to 40% compared to teams that have no bad apples.
The “5 Times” rule has another application. The impact on an employee's feelings of 1 negative interaction (with a manager or a coworker) is 5 times stronger than that of a positive interaction.
Research shows that managers of the highest performing teams confront problems directly and quickly, issue more warnings and formal punishments, and promptly fire employees when warnings fail. These no-nonsense managers inspire higher performance because they make it crystal clear that they will not tolerate poor performance - so long as they are fair and consistent, and balance this with ample recognition and praise for good performance.
The key lesson for managers is - eliminate the negative. Don't procrastinate when it comes to doing the unpleasant work. Rooting out poor performance and negative behaviors is not fun, but playing “bad cop” is an essential part of being a successful manager.