Good guys die first?

Yes, good guys die first!

Well, OK, I know it is not always the case. But I want to point out how and when it happens. It is not inevitable, but it really happens in many business organizations.

Sometimes, I like to joke that good guys stand still only happen in movies. That is not in any way trying to be cynical. I said that because in most of my experience, and perhaps also from history, the good guys rarely survive till the end of the chronicle.

Indeed the word ‘die’ here is not literally means death, but more as termination or losing. There are different ways of how it happens, such as becoming a martyr, becoming a hero, or could also be losing for a greater good. While these are often true to the reality, often times these also some sort of nice packaging of what was an unnecessary lost.


And unnecessary lost are often the case in business organizations where good guys die first!

I called it as unnecessary lost because these good guys ‘die’ when the organization actually needs them. Here are three notes on this:

  • Good guys die first is the most common situation when the organization failed to differentiate the good guys from the bad guys. Instead of keeping the good guys, the failed to recognize these good and mistakenly favor more on the bad guys. In most cases, this happens when there is a combination of ineffective management with ‘fake’ talents. As an impact to this failure, many wrong decisions will be done and sacrificing the organization in the process…and of course, ‘burn’ the good guys too.
  • Good guys often die first because of the lack of vision in the organization. This is a natural mechanism, I would say, as an organization without vision will generally waste good people, and easily exploited by ‘scavengers’ who have no desire to improve the organization whatsoever. Lack of vision will create unclear direction, messy business processes, and ineffective budget and resource allocation. This set of issues will end up as  poor decisions and poor remuneration, the two most lethal bullets to kill the good guys.
  • The classic failure on people investment also one of the best ‘killer’ for good guys. Real good guys are the kind of people who get things done. These type of people are rarely asking for investment on them (such as training), and yet they have the habit to use all kinds of training they ever receive to improve the business. The biggest challenge is that if they not asked for it, there is quite a big risk that the business doesn’t invest on them because they seem to be productive anyway. Or, the business will invest on trying to ‘fix’ the bad guys, which to my experience, will result to no avail. And eventually, when the business realizes this failure, it is already too late.

In a simple way to say is that good guys die first in failing organizations, because only a failing organization who could waste its best resources. They may not aware about it, and perhaps the business bottom lines are not showing any failing. Not until all the good guys are wasted.

What do you think?


7 thoughts on “Good guys die first?

  1. quite agree James. Good guys are like a phoenix in bad organizations. They will “die”, and then rise up as a new and better version of him/herself in another place… Although we must really make a distinction between a good guy and a naive/stupid guy… sometimes people blur this distinction…

  2. So who is this “good guy” in the organization if it’s not easy for distinction between “good guy” and fake “good guy”?

    Then if the “good guy” die first because the leader from organization is the “bad guy”?

    1. Well, I think the good guy is the one who bring good result for the organization. It could be difficult to know who is the real good guy, because we often messed by our own bias. For example, someone who we like to hang out with is not a good guy if he does not perform well in his resposibility. Why? Because it is business organization, not a hobby club 🙂
      As for your second point, I think the leader can be a good or bad guy. There are bad guys who smart enough to keep the good guys for his own interests. And there are also good guy who does not aware that he is keeping bad guys in his team. It is not like in the comic book where good guys always become the victim of a bad leader. Reality is considerably different 🙂

  3. Fully agreed James. In this post I feel the same thing as your description about ‘wrong recognizing’, ‘lack of vision’, and ‘failure investment’. Let me share my current situation in office. This happening after case with Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) who jailed my boss. The management performance has drop, no vision, lacks on commitment, and other internal problems that make the organization looks chaos. many good guys who have talents resigned after getting new job, and replaced with ‘donkeys’ with bigger salary compared to us. We can see their trends to replace all of us with another ‘donkeys’. Even they took my job and give it to a ‘donkey’ who has salary tripled to mine. From the ‘old’ team members only remain 40%. Well, my job now is come to office in the morning, have a seat, enjoy a cup of coffee, and read news. IT supporting will be done if required. But the sad point is here: ‘The donkey’ couldn’t understand even I taught him hundred times, and with his authorization, this donkey destroy the system I built myself in front of me, and after that he ask me to help him! We are the old members that still try to survive, but we also look for new opportunities. So, What you described above is not theory, this actually happen! This quote also help us to decide our future. I already print and shared it with my old team members. Thanks for this quote James.

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