I recently rewatched the Game of Thrones series with my wife as we waited for the new House of the Dragon season. When we finished the series, I told my wife I had seen a business lesson on this show.

As I rewatched the show, I could not help but notice two characters in the show who brought chaos throughout the series: Cersei Lannister and Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger. Through cunning schemes, lies, and ruthless strategies, these two individuals sparked wars, sowed distrust, and led to the downfall of powerful houses. Their actions serve as a powerful metaphor for the impact negative influences can have within an organization.

Just as Littlefinger’s manipulations led to the War of the Five Kings, a single negative person—or a small group—within your company can ignite conflicts, erode trust, and derail progress. The aftermath of their actions often demands immense resources and time to fix the damage, just as the Seven Kingdoms required years of battles, alliances, and sacrifices to restore a semblance of order.

In a business context, negativity can manifest in various forms: spreading rumors, undermining colleagues, resisting change, or fostering a toxic work environment. These behaviors can ruin team morale, decrease productivity, and tarnish the company’s reputation. The consequences ripple through the organization, forcing leaders to divert their focus from growth and innovation to damage control and conflict resolution.

Consider the sacrifices made in the aftermath of these disruptions. Talented employees may choose to leave, unable to thrive in a toxic environment. Leaders spend countless hours mediating disputes, rebuilding trust, and reshaping company culture. Projects may stall, and growth opportunities can be missed as the organization works to repair the damage caused by the negative elements.

To prevent the Littlefinger effect in your business, it is crucial to cultivate a culture of transparency, support, and mutual respect. Identify and address negative behaviors immediately and foster an environment where positive contributions are recognized and valued. Doing so can ensure that your organization remains resilient, united, and focused on achieving its goals.

Remember, it only takes one Littlefinger to incite a war or, in this case, cause havoc in your business. But with cautiousness and a commitment to a positive work culture, you can prevent your organization from your own battle of kingdoms fighting for the throne.