Countering the Negativity Effect
Over the past two decades, numerous psychological studies have found that the human brain is hard-wired to focus on what is bad rather than on what is good. A negative image, for example, stimulates more electrical activity in the brain than a positive image. This negativity bias is an evolutionary vestige passed along from early hunter-gatherers whose vigilance concerning any threats allowed them to survive.
In their new book, “The Power of Bad,” science journalist John Tierney and research psychologist Roy Baumeister detail how this negativity bias pervades all aspects of life, including in the workplace. An angry client, for example, has a disproportionately greater impact than a happy one. Same with a disgruntled employee. There’s little credit given for meeting a deadline, but a big price to pay for missing one. The lesson according to the authors: “Avoiding bad is far more important than doing good.”
Rotten to the core
It turns out the old proverb is true—one bad apple can spoil the bunch. The authors cite studies that have found that the performance of a project team doesn’t depend on the average abilities of its members but rather on the ability of its worst member. Negativity can be contagious and spread quickly, and even the presence of several stars won’t undo the damage caused by one bad employee. Although there is no foolproof way of identifying bad apples in the hiring process, rigorous interviews can help. If you have a bad apple in your crop of employees, the authors recommend quick action. Don’t force star employees to adapt to one person’s bad behavior. Intervene early, rearrange project teams if tensions develop, and don’t hesitate to fire someone who is a negative drain.
Rule of Four
The authors cite studies that have found a negative event or emotion usually has at least three times the impact of a comparable positive one. That means that penalties are usually more effective than rewards in improving worker performance, but it also means you can’t offset a mistake with just one action. Tierney and Baumeister advocate the “Rule of Four”— four good things are required to overcome one bad thing. That means, for example, that it will take four compliments to outweigh one piece of criticism.
the Road Warrior
Ranking the Best – and Worst – Airlines
Delta sky high
For the third consecutive year, Delta Air Lines has landed atop the annual ranking of major U.S. airlines by the Wall Street Journal. According to the ranking of nine airlines based on 2019 performance data in seven different categories, Delta had the best performance in on-time arrivals, canceled flights, and involuntary bumping. Delta cancelled only 0.7% of its flights in 2019 compared to the industry average of 1.85%. Also scoring high were Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines, which tied for second. Alaska has been either first or second in the Wall Street Journal rankings since 2010, and for twelve years in a row it has had the highest customer satisfaction among traditional carriers, according to J.D. Power.
Turbulence at American
The Wall Street Journal analysis also found that Southwest had the lowest rate of two-hour tarmac delays and Allegiant performed the best in handling luggage, while American performed the worst in those categories. Alaska had the fewest extreme delays, while JetBlue had the most. Southwest had the lowest percentage of passengers filing formal complaints, while Spirit Airlines had the highest. The Wall Street Journal ranking didn’t include other aspects of airline travel such as seat comfort, employee service, ticket prices, and add-on fees.
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