During my corporate years, an executive of the company once pulled me aside and told me his philosophy that there are two types of people. He called them "good bears" and "bad bears." He thought I would be delighted to know I was a good bear. My first reaction, which I kept inside my head where it would be safe was "Thanks for the nothing, you simplistic bastard." But in the fullness of time I have come to embrace his philosophy.

I allow for some slop in my designations. Everyone is nice sometimes, and everyone has their selfish or evil moments. But at a person's core you will find either a good bear or a bad bear.

Case in point, a reader sent me this observation from his workplace.

"Extra food from company events is often put in the break room areas for those who weren't involved in the meeting.  I have a co-worker who, when happening upon the food, will pack it up and take it home.  He rarely leaves anything behind.  One time he was seen taking the bag the food was delivered in out of the trash so he could repack it.  He's been seen packing up the left over plastic silverware, napkins and plates, but leaving behind the Italian dressing.  He must not like that kind."

While I can't rule out the possibility that this person was taking the food to a homeless shelter, something tells me that isn't the case. The homeless often like Italian dressing. In any case, this is just an example.

Do you buy into the philosophy that people are either good bears or bad bears at their core?
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0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 7, 2009
I don't know where they're good or bad but I do believe people are basically bears. I have a story about how when the baby bear messes with stuff and the mommy bear comes around, how the mommy bear often pulls the limbs off whatever the baby bear was playing with if whatever that thing is was making the baby bear sad or if the mommy bear doesn't for whatever reason like that thing. Usually this story is heard by my daughter's male friends when they come to pick her up.
Jan 7, 2009
I remember an old experiment that involved placing rubber tortoises on a highway and recording drivers' behaviour. One sixth of drivers swerved to hit them - bad bears; one third of drivers swerved to avoid them - good bears; and half drove straight ahead - indifferent bears. This appears to show one sixth of people are bad - which is quite a lot really, but at least there are twice as many good people. Alternatively you could say that two thirds of people are either bad or indifferent, which isn't very comforting. BTW that one-sixth figure seems to be confirmed by the experiences of The Bagel Guy, Paul Feldman.
Jan 7, 2009
That guy sounds more like Yogi Bear....
Jan 7, 2009
The two types not only relate to things but with conversations they may have. Even had a chat with someone who only talks about themselves? They try to top anything you say (favorite phrase is Oh, that’s nothing…… )They do not listen to you and take anything you manage to wedge in as a launching point for their story and generally do not give a diddly squat about you or yours. They love to digress and hear the sound of their voice, They love to talk about people that you do not know or want to know. They are not even embarrassed after an hour or so when they realized they have learn nothing about you. They usually shun you after one of these one way dialogues. Boring people.
Jan 7, 2009
I think we are all good bears at our core. The food taker is a good bear with bad behavior.
Jan 7, 2009
no, I don't buy any of this. life is too nuanced for someone to be "fundamentally good" or "fundamentally bad."
things may be bad in a particular !$%*!$%*!$%*! but that doesn't make someone bad to the core.
Jan 7, 2009
I’m going to throw in an argument for the “food vulture”. Temporarily ignore the moral/good-bad bear argument and assume that a large corporation gives out unlimited free leftover-meeting food to all “vulture” employees (with multiple courses, salads, drinks, deserts, etc). Through this, each vulture saves:

$10/meal (assume enough food for 10 hr day) x
5 meals/week x
47 weeks/year (assume 5 holiday/vacation weeks) x
That comes out to $2350/year.
If this was salary taxed at 26.56 % it would be $3200/year.

So the food-scavenger is making $3200/year above a comparable employee (and possibly eating a more varied diet). That’s a pretty strong economic incentive to search for leftovers, especially in a company where leftovers are shared. If the meetings only occur on certain days (Mon, Wed, Fri) then it makes sense for the employee to store food for Tuesday and Thursday.

Now throw morals into the equation and this gets much more complicated. To make a fair judgment on said employee, one must include factors such as:
Company culture (what is acceptable employee behavior)
Standard food procedures (some companies would rather throw away leftovers, others want employees to take the food away as quickly as possible, others prefer that the food be “fairly” distributed, others only allow the unit that paid for the food to share it, and others have food recycling programs)
Each employee’s personal morals
The “unsaid” rules of conduct (which usually conflict with the above factors)

Given the huge savings, and the confusing moral standards, I think the food-vulture, even if discrete and considerate of others while scavenging, gets unfairly labeled as a bad bear.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 7, 2009
I subscribe to the theory put forth in Orson Scott Card's ender series: If you truly get to know somebody, and understand why they do what they do, it is impossible to not love them. There are exceptions and there are people who do things for bad reasons but I have yet to meet anybody who is "Bad" at their core. And this includes the break room thief, because I am absolutely certain that he doesn't take the food to piss everybody else off.
Jan 7, 2009
there are alot of funny things about your post
I find it hilarious that your boss thought you would be delighted to know that you were a good bear and i like the parts about italian dressing, "its true that homeless people like italian dressing"

why a bear? why not a good puppy or bad puppy?
in your book you talked about how people slip in and out of idiocy. its like that w/ morality definately probably

also i like post the other day where wally says, "i don't like to brag about this but im a mammal"

now i will sit back and pretend people are reading this blog post and enjoying it

Jan 7, 2009
I want to go with The Joker (Dark Knight)... The so called good bears are only as good as the world lets them to be. They drop all the good bearishness at the first sign of trouble ! The only difference would be our threshold to this trouble, before we give up and broke apart !
So what are we really talking about here ? Somebody please clarify me ?
Yeah there are some people who can never give up ! But I'd second to what Scott calls them - deviations !
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 7, 2009
Geez, it's a lot simpler than everyone seems to think:

Good bears: people I like
Bad bears: people I don't like plus most executives

There seems to be some evolutionary process that makes good bears unfit to inhabit the higher corporate echelons.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 7, 2009
Bad bears are people who seem to go out of their way to ensure that I have to be a bigger a-hole than they are. They represent a nexus of incompetence and bad intentions. Good bears have their stuff together and know how to collaborate. Rough count, I've run into 1 bad bear and 8 good bears in my 20 year career. I pretty much know how to pick out the potential bad bears now and pass them off.

Most people aren't bears though. In this analogy, the bear part comes from having weight and knowing how to throw it around. With heft and strength comes responsibility. You want to minimize the chance of battling other bears, but you can't get pushed around by the bad ones. You want to minimize collateral damage to all sheep, and better, maximize the welfare of your flock.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 7, 2009
It's all in the eyes of the perceiver, since everyone has a different moral compass. I would submit that those who believe in God or some other ultimate authority would have a greater tendancy to buy into that theory.
Jan 7, 2009
I have a much less binary view on this.... Think of humanity as a bell curve stood on its side. You have an average level of goodness/badness and most everyone is clustered near that line. You have some people who are so bad that they are at the bottom of that curve and keep the average from climbing too far (Hitler, Bin laden, Stalin, and all the scummy anonymous people like the Mexican drug cartel murderers and Al Qaida foot soldiers). And you have some people who are just really good, who tend to be mostly anonymous because they don't pursue fame/infamy. Everyone knows some of them. They keep the line from falling too far.

Your goal as a human being should be to be above the line, thereby doing your part to raise the average. This gives you latitude to have some naughtiness (most people would say "fun"), so long as your good things compensate. But things like general meanness will always keep you below the line, no matter how good you are in other areas.
Jan 7, 2009
We had a food hoarder at a company I used to work for as well. The company had an annual shrimp boil and I was one of the cooks (I wasn't forced, I enjoy that sort of thing). This event was free for employees and they could bring a guest for a fee ($5 or so). The hoarder would always try to be best buddies with us in the cooking area, hoping for some extra food, even though he never spoke with us the rest of the year. Then if there were leftovers, he would be first in line. One year we underestimated how much shrimp to buy, or the servers gave too much at first, I'm not sure which. Anyway, as we were running low and looking nervously at the line hoping we would have enough, he comes up asking for a to-go plate for his wife because "Mary couldn't make it". He heard us talking about being short, but just keep repeating "Mary couldn't make it" as we reluctantly gave him a plate for her. After all it wasn't his fault we messed up, and he had paid for her to attend, right? Wrong. Checking the sign-up sheets, he never said he was bringing a guest. So he took home free food for "Mary" while 1 or 2 people who actually attended the function did not get any! Or maybe he never took it home. Perhaps he scarfed it down in the car and told "Mary" she was out of luck when he got home. I wouldn't put it past him.

I don't know about good and bad bears, but the topic reminds me of a quote I once read by a humorist (perhaps Dave Barry, I don't remember), "Someone who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person."
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 7, 2009
I prefer "people I like" and "people I'd just as soon avoid". The thing is, whatever scale or classification system one uses, the assessment is relative and personal. You won't like (classify as "good") the same people I do, and we won't put the same folks in the dislike (or "bad") category either.

I think it's not just people. I think you classify everything that happens and everything you encounter in this way. I know I do.

"It's raining. Is that good for me or bad for me? I don't have an umbrella... Yuck!"

"It's raining. Is that good for me or bad for me? It means my sweet potatos will grow. Yippee!"

"I just got a raise. Is that good for me or bad for me? It's good! Woohoo!!"

Even encountering a "good" person can be "bad".

"I just met a hot woman and she said I'm cute. Is that good for me or bad for me? My wife is standing right beside me. Uh oh!"
Jan 7, 2009
I agree with the idea that people have a "base" nature at their core -- but I disagree with "place in a bin" classification system. Instead, I tend to end up considering how they would react in different types of situations -- after all, a person's behavior to a certain stimulus might not always be the same, but their basic initial reactions should be.
Jan 7, 2009
It's clear that most of you ARE NOT getting it. Scott is using the bear analogy to allude to a higher plane of thinking within the Zen Buddhist philosophy.

Simply put. There is the Yogi, and the anti-Yogi and a cause and effect relationship on boo-boo. The overall meaning is to get or achieve the great picnic basket in the sky while alluding the anti-Yogi (Park Ranger Smith - the corporate world - manifestation.)

He who achieves the great picnic basket, embraces nirvana or Jellystone. Say hi to Kurt Cobain, if you get there first.

Class for tomorrow, read chapters four, five, and six. Now open your hymnals to 477, the first, third, and last stanza.
Jan 7, 2009
No. We're all bad bears. Some of us are just better actors.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 7, 2009
Yes and no.

When it boils down to it, most people are fundamentally decent.

There are a few a$$holes, and they do their best to ruin it for the rest of us.

That seems much the same as your assessment, and like you, I leave room for grey.

One interesting thing which happened a few years ago is that companies began to recruit no a$$hole policies (yes - they are actually called that) into their recruitment and performance management practices. The intention is that anybody who is toxic to their coworkers either doesn't get hired or doesn't stay for long. I think this rule often doesn't get applied higher up the ladder, though...
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