Why Liking Bad News Could Be Bad For Your Business

2016 was awful, wasn't it?

POSTED BY ADAM FOX ON 22/12/2016 @ 9:00AM

Whatever our personal feelings about the various events that made up 2016, it seems that, on balance, this year was a bit rubbish, doesn't it?

As we reach the end of 2016, we look back on an awful year, but there was good news too!

As we reach the end of 2016, we look back on an awful year, but there was good news too!

copyright: solerf / 123rf stock photo (licensee)

However you personally feel about Brexit, Trump, Corbyn and the rest, there's an uncertainty in politics that we haven't seen in 'this part of the world' for decades.

"The reactions we have to even just reading those names divide people, which is never a good thing!"

Even if you aren't political (if such a thing were possible), I'm sure you've been affected by at least one of the slew of beloved celebrities who passed away. Not to mention all the other conflicts, diseases and disasters all over the world.

It seems like there wasn't any good news this year, doesn't it? But there was actually quite a lot. According to various sources:

  • Measles was eradicated from North and South America

  • The Gambian and Tanzanian governments banned child marriage

  • China banned new coal mines and installed three times as many renewable sources of energy as they did in 2015

  • A quarter of European countries announced they have stopped using coal

  • Costa Rica joined the list of countries that is only using renewable energy

  • Reports showed acid pollution in the oceans has almost been reduced back to pre-1930s levels

  • As of 2016, the death penalty is illegal in more than half of all countries

  • The US finally overhauled nutritional labels and legislation

  • Deaths from malaria were down by 60%

  • The 24th year in a row that the rate of teenage pregnancy fell in the UK and US

  • The 3rd year in a row in which carbon emissions from fossil fuels didn't increase

  • 12% fewer children died in Russia than in 2015

  • Manatees, grizzly bears, white-tailed deer, green sea turtles, humpback whales and giant pandas were declared no longer endangered.

  • The latter half of 2016 saw less than a sixth of all people involved in 'war'; it's difficult to quantify, but this might be the smallest amount of war there has ever been.

That's all happened or has been announced this year. And there was a lot more to boot. It's heart-warming and all hugely important, but the science suggests it just doesn't have the same impact as bad news.

It's for the same reason that if someone wrote:

  • 2 x 2 = 4

  • 2 x 3 = 6

  • 2 x 4 = 11

  • 2 x 5 = 10

  • 2 x 6 = 12

We notice that one sum is wrong.

We don't really notice that four sums are right in the same way. The correct sums are just there; the incorrect one sort of sets off a little alarm, doesn't it? It draws our attention.

"From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense; evolution chooses advantages!"

There's an advantage to noticing that one bush that doesn't look right. The berries might be diseased. It might be about to fall over. There might be a tiger hiding in it. There are no advantages to paying attention to the four bushes that are exactly as they should be.

Professor Stuart Soroka says, "there are advantages to being an animal that prioritises negative information. We are living and always have lived, in a very information-rich environment. We can't pay attention to everything. We need some heuristic that helps us select the information that's important and the information that's not  -  or at least the information that requires us to change our behaviour versus the information that doesn't."

"In short, we pay more attention to bad news because the bad news is more likely to require action than good news!"

There's a separate discussion about that being an important function of the media, but, in simple terms, bad news gets our attention; therefore, bad news is good for the newspaper business. The front page headline "Danger: This Could Hurt You" will sell a lot more papers than "Everything is Mostly OK, Generally Speaking".

But that could be bad for your businesses. The mistake maker above got four out of five sums correct. That's an 80% success rate, which is pretty good. Of course, it's understood that mistakes need to be addressed, but if your employees are working hard and have an 80% success rate, it can be incredibly demotivating when it seems you only notice the mistakes they make.

You can make all sorts of arguments, such as why do people need to be congratulated for just doing their job, but that's just how people work, including you, the owner. The difference is, the existence and success of the business naturally congratulates you for just doing your job.

Make sure you acknowledge the good work everyone else is doing otherwise you'll end up with a lot of demotivated, disengaged people and a toxic environment.

To err is human; to address that and interact with it is incredibly challenging and one of the things that separate good leaders from great ones. Everyone makes mistakes and that includes me and you. Don't forget that.

"It's probably one of the true meanings of Christmas or something!"

Anyway, Merry Christmas, everyone. And a Happy New Year for the weekend after that. I'm glad 2016 is nearly over. It was awful, wasn't it?

Until next time




More about Adam Fox ...

The decade and a bit for which I've worked has been split equally between retail and offices; I worked as management in retail, and I was a junior project manager in an office. However, I struggled to find job satisfaction, so I attended University as a mature student and earned an English degree with first-class honours.

I joined The Office Genie in August 2016, which is a huge opportunity for me and I'm working hard to make the most of it. I'm finding that satisfaction I was looking for doing creative, challenging, engaging work I'm passionate about for a company I can really get involved with. From my experience at work and in my personal life, I've cultivated a well-developed and varied skillset which I'm keen to apply.

I've been lucky enough in my personal life to be exposed to lots of experiences with great people in a variety of settings. From Scouting to travel to computing and even to headlining a stage or two, most of the pastimes which I enjoy share the common elements of teamwork, learning, storytelling and analysis. I have a deep passion for art, puzzles, games, stories, language, communication and collaboration, which I love to share in great detail. On a completely unrelated note, I also love my very patient wife.


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