Bad Behavior That Works Often Multiplies

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bad behavior

Bad Behavior That Works Often Multiplies

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Is bad behavior embraced, and then multiplies? It happens, and it may be happening right now, all around you.

When a well-meaning manager sets a metric and starts to measure it, what happens? If the metric is within reach and within bounds, things may start to improve. Is there a cost connected with the improvement?

Nearly everything has a cost, a pro and con, something good and something that is a price to be paid for the goodness.

Metrics and Measurement

Pushing towards the metric is a good idea. Pushing too hard can start to threaten the ethics and integrity of the person or team.

A metric pushed too hard is often identifiable through two possible outcomes. One outcome is that people start to jump ship. The pot of water is too hot and they jump out. Another possibility is that they’ll find a way to bend the rules.

Of course, a third possibility is that they will improve their performance, that they’ll stay within the boundaries and continue with an honest pursuit.

The challenge often circles back to what is the cost? Part of the equation is also connected to the potential reward.

Bad Behavior Rewarded

It isn’t always intentional. Sometimes it is the belief that everyone is doing it.

This became painfully obvious in 2019 with a widespread college admissions scandal. A pay-to-play advantage that was outside of the rules. Was everyone doing it? No. Were some doing it successfully? Yes. Was it cheating? Absolutely.

When bad behavior is rewarded or connected to enough of an advantage to be viewed as worth the risk, someone will sign up for it.

Bad behavior often creates the illusion of a performance advantage. Drugs in sports and shady business deals quickly come to mind.

It can go deeper. In private business people often have an opportunity to build the business through relationships. It is the, “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine.” Other people sometimes call this the, “Good olde boy network.”

If it is private, it’s private. However, when it is government funded it may bring on a whole new twist.

Behavior that has been done in the past doesn’t mean that it is good behavior. Behavior that works to get the job done also may have ethical or legal challenges.

Size up the behavior for good and bad. Size it up for ethics, legal, and integrity.

Reward only the behavior that stays within the bounds.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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