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Alek Remash

One of Bob's colleagues at Stanford effectively utilizes #3 to motivate students, doling out more high praise and stinging criticism than in all the other classrooms I've been in--combined. This energetic professor frequently swung back and forth between complimenting and degrading students, both in and out of class. We responded well for the most part because we could tell he was genuinely passionate about the work and really wanted to push us to do our best. And he was openly critical of himself and has a great sense of humor. It was not the most comfortable learning environment, but it was one of the most rewarding. I'm glad I experienced it (for multiple reasons), but I am also relieved that I don't have to deal with it regularly in other parts of my life.

Alek Remash

My wife and I use this approach on contractors that we've hired for home improvements or events management. She'll complain loudly about what they're doing wrong, threaten to complain to their boss or a post negative review online, and storm off. That sometimes scares them straight, but if it seems to annoy them, I step in to prevent them from retaliating by sabotaging, vandalizing, etc. I'll quietly offer to go stop her if they promise to fix the problem, and maybe slip them a tip on the way out if they do better from then on, and (this is where the acting starts) plead if they could just make my wife happy because I have to live with her after they leave. That usually produces an affirmative smile, but then I warn them that if they don't improve, she'll fire and not pay them, and file complaints with BBB or whomever and get her lawyer cousin involved "like she did with those guys we hired last year." So it's a sequential combination of #1 and #4: bad cop with a small stick, good cop with a small carrot, threat of bad cop returning with a big stick.


Is your masthead photograph a "good cop, bad cop" scene?

Kevin Rutkowski

This got me thinking about how the US could use this on the world stage. I think that regardless of what anyone thinks about our recent presidents, most would agree that the world sees Clinton and Obama as "good cops" and Bush as a "bad cop".

Obama should use that to his advantange and explain to any enemies that they should cooperate with him or the American people are likely to elect "bad cop" Dick Cheney to deal with them next! That should scare 'em into compliance. :-)

Kevin Rutkowski

Every time I've purchased a car, the dealer who I speak with was the good cop, but his manager in the back office was the bad cop.

The dealer always wanted to give me everything I asked for, but the mean manager in back just wouldn't let him.

As a manager, I've done the good cop, bad cop approach (on both sides). I've also ended taking the bad cop, worse cop tack -- not quite as succesful, that one. Works wonders for putting the fear of god into someone, but has quickly diminishing returns.


Ooh, if could sign this anonymously.

You just explained our parenting style, added at least another 10 years to our already 22 year old marriage, and have removed my final resistance to going into business with my husband.

So the next time I have the urge to say to him "your an a..hole" I'll follow it up with, "and I mean that as a comliment."

Thanks for the insight!

Dwayne Phillips

For 20-something years I was an engineer in the Federal government. We would visit companies that were making systems for us. Many in my office advocated the good cop, bad cop approach. "You act ugly and I'll act nice, that'll shake 'em up."

Several problems:

(1) We weren't good actors. Any moron could see through the ploy.

(2) This ploy caused us to lie. Once you lie, you are a liar and no one should ever trust you.

(3) All the ploys in the world didn't make the electrons flow through the circuits the way we wanted them to. Only good designs would do that. The ploy didn't make the designers any smarter.

(4) It was just plain stupid.

Aaron Windeler


#3 reminds me of the game-theory idea that sometimes it is best for your opponent to think that you are crazy (some people say that this is what Nixon was doing to get the USSR to think that the United States had a crazy person in charge of all the nukes, so they better be very careful).

Also, the classic parental line, "Wait until your father gets home." seems like a case of the good cop, bad cop.

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