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| 2 minutes read

How is negativity bias impacting your mobility program?

In reading this article from Management Today, “Why is negativity bias so prevalent?”, I was triggered to think more about the idea of how negativity impacts things often so much more than positivity. The idea of negativity bias centers around how we tend to focus on, learn from, and use negative information and feedback more than positive information and feedback.  For examples, Positive Psychology shares that we:

  • Recall and think about insults more than compliments 
  • Respond more – emotionally and physically – to aversive stimuli
  • Dwell on unpleasant or traumatic events more than pleasant ones
  • Focus our attention more quickly on negative rather than positive information

Negative experiences affect behavior more than positive experiences. Organisms respond quicker to negative responses than positive responses, because the negative warrants change, often immediately.

Negativity Bias - The Decision Lab

It's interesting that there are more negative adjectives than there are positive ones. This study showed that people know more negative emotion words than positive or neutral words. The proportion of words was 50 percent negative, 30 percent positive and 20 percent neutral. Then consider that there are more negative moods than there are positive moods and that negative moods spread more easily than good moods. I recall from a long time ago, in my education as a teacher, us focusing on the idea that one "bad" experience requires approximately five "good" experiences to offset it. One negative criticism requires 5 compliments. If positives are money in the bank, then negatives are always a giant withdrawal. 

So how is this impacting your global mobility program? To start to answer this, consider your internal team, your internal stakeholders/clients, your mobile employees and your mobility partners involved in supporting the program. In considering the 5 to 1 ratio balance, you might work on putting some money in the bank by focusing and celebrating all the good that has happened and is happening in your program. Marketing those positive metrics, events and experiences helps everyone realize and focus on all the good that is happening. Then as quickly as possible, when there are the occasional negative situations, evaluate and rectify them as quickly as possible.  No mobility program is immune to the occasional issue or crisis, but when something does come along, embrace the situation with a calm and focused mindset to evaluate and find the resolution(s) whether they be short or long-term, or both. (#fix-the-moment-and-fix-future-moments)

Per MindTools, in todays, VUCA world, where the 4 negative elements of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguousness are at play, and cause things to happen suddenly and unpredictably, you can counter them by developing these 4 positive qualities: 

  • Values, which you need to stick to even when times get tough.
  • Understanding of the situation that you're in.
  • Communication with your colleagues and stakeholders.
  • Agility in the way that you react and adapt.

We discussed that in a previous post (Redefining VUCA for Global Mobility) where we explained that successful organizations and mobility programs can focus on becoming antifragile, meaning they get stronger under stress, by tapping into this new lens as they look at programs and situations. Lastly, as you evaluate and build your world-class global mobility program, recognize that you can actually tap into the power of negative thinking. Checkout another of our posts that digs into this: Is there a positive to negative thinking?

Claire Robertson and colleagues  analysed 105,000 variations of news stories from and found: “Although positive words were slightly more prevalent than negative words, negative words in news headline results increased consumption rates.” Indeed, negativity helps to create relevant and compelling content for audiences. With the pressure to secure click-through rates, this can stray into sensationalism. Such copy, in turn, impacts on corporate and individual reputations. Hence, whenever giving a story to a journalist, it is always advisable to consider how the news could be re-expressed negatively.


global mobility, program, policy, satisfaction, negativity bias, weighted, employee experience, vuca, balance, reframing, positivity, impact, insights