….bad outweighs good… lessons for candidates and hiring authorities

Just started listening to a new book, The Power of Bad, by John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister. You know how often something is presented to you and you go, “oh, my goodness that’s been there all along and that’s why the kind of things that happen (in our business) happen.” And then you start thinking about all of the things you should have been doing to counterbalance…or at least understand…in your business process.

the authors research and prove that “bad outweighs good…that bad events are four times more likely to effect us negatively than positive events effect us positively …we remember negative experiences much longer than we remember positive ones …and that we are much more prone to negative bias than we are to positive bias.” The bottom line is that we are drawn to the negative.

I’m really excited about finishing the book because it’s premise is that if we put our “bad” in perspective and learn from it we can get better and it can serve as something very positive.

It dawned on me that we experience this in the interviewing and hiring process all of the time. Just last week, we had a vice president candidate with a great documentable track record go all the way through a four-week interviewing process with (almost) hoards of people, an extensive background and reference check, a verbal discussion of what an offer would look like (in the $150,000 range with a $300,000 total first year earnings) and a start date only to be scuttled and not offered because the CEO, who lives in another part of the country and only interviewed the candidate for 45 minutes during the candidate’s corporate visit, “heard” through a back door channel some negative things about the candidate. He didn’t even share what he heard. He just said, “if what I heard is true, I just can’t live with it.” And that’s what he communicated to the EVP who is doing the hiring.

Even though this candidates references were outstanding and the candidates recent, verifiable track record was excellent and what the CEO heard about the candidate happened a number of years ago… at least that’s what we were told…the company decided not to hire the candidate. The power of bad manifested itself! There was not even interest in consulting with the candidate about whatever happened. The EVP is exasperated because he’s been trying to find someone for four months. But the CEO really didn’t give him any choice.

The candidate was not fazed that much because he had two other offers that were reasonably equal and he accepted one. Not a big deal. But we really feel badly for our client because they really needed him, probably worse than he needed them. A couple of years ago, our client had a very bad experience with a VP  they hired in another part of the country. She had only been with the company for six months and they knew they had made a mistake. It took the company almost another 6 months to get rid of the lady and (again, the power of bad) the leaders of the company felt like they had egg all over their face over it. They were so afraid of making a mistake again that the power of bad outweighed the evidence of good in this situation.

Having said all of this, it’s any hiring authority’s or client’s right to hire or not hire anybody they wish for whatever reason. The lesson is that we should all balance the good with the bad. But we need to realize that there’s a tendency for “the bad” to far outweigh, at least initially, the good.

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