For many years we’ve all known that a few incompetent or disruptive employees can hurt morale for all.  This is why I’ve always advised managers to get rid of these people even if they think they’re irreplaceable…which no one really is.  Now there’s research showing it’s even worse than we thought.

A variety of researchers including Roy F Baumeister of Florida State University and Andrew Miner of University of Minnesota and their associates have figured out that negative interactions have five times as much impact as positive interactions.  In this context negative impact means less creative work, less progress, and ultimately less success than situations with positive interactions.

As is the case with a bad restaurant meal, employees spend significantly more time talking about bad employees than they do talking about good employees.  They remember negative interactions longer and their moods are impacted negatively for a longer time.

Basically, the effect of the bad seeps out into everyone and poisons the culture for all.

And yet, many managers make all kinds of excuses for keeping the bad apples around…even when the stench becomes almost unbearable for everyone else. 

In my experience when the move is finally made and the rotten fruit sent off to the compost pile, the relief among those remaining is palpable.  The most often asked question is not “why were they fired?” but “why did they wait so long to fire them?”

Almost immediately the culture improves, things get better, and success becomes easier to achieve.  So what are you waiting for?

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