Recently, I posted a list of 12 Things Good Bosses Believe. Now I’m following up by delving into each one of them. This post is about the tenth belief: “Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the psitive.”
Of all the tunes in the Johnny Mercer songbook, the most generally beloved must be “Accentuate the Positive” — whether your favorite cover is Bing Crosby‘s, Willie Nelson‘s, or someone else’s. Chances are that you yourself could summon up the chorus word for word (and click here if you want accompaniment).
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
It trips off the tongue so easily that you might not even notice that Mercer is telling you to do two things, not just one. Eliminating the negative, as any skilled leader can tell you, is not just the flipside of accentuating the positive. It’s a whole different set of activities. For someone with people to manage, accentuating the positive means recognizing productive and constructive effort, for example, and helping people discover and build on their strengths. Eliminating the negative, for the same boss, might mean tearing down maddening obstacles and shielding people from abuse.
Certainly, every leader should try to do both. Yet, given that every boss has limited time, attention, and resources, an interesting question is: which should take priority? A growing body of behavioral science research provides a pretty clear answer here: It’s more important to eliminate the negative.
The seminal academic paper here is called “Bad is Stronger Than Good” [pdf]. Roy Baumeister and his colleagues draw on a huge pile of peer-reviewed studies to show that negative information, experiences, and people have far deeper impacts than positive ones. In the context of romantic relationships and marriages, for example, the truth is stark: unless positive interactions outnumber negative interactions by five to one, odds are that the relationship will fail. Sigue leyendo