10 “Good” Decisions that Actually Backfired

by Shweta Anand2 years ago
Picture 10 “Good” Decisions that Actually Backfired

Over the years, human beings have come up with ideas and solutions to numerous problems that plague our world. Although most of these solutions have helped us change for the better, there have been many that did not work as well as we wanted. As a result, many good ideas have backfired in the weirdest ways possible. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that we can learn a lot from these backfired decisions. So, let’s take a look at ten “good” decisions that actually backfired

1 In 1945, the elevator operators’ union in New York City decided to go on a strike to demand better labor conditions. Up until then, people had been scared to use the elevators by themselves. But as the strike went on, the demand for elevator operators dropped and their jobs became obsolete. 

Elevator Operators' strike
Elevator Operators’ strike. Image credit: searcharchives.vancouver.ca

In 1945, a few weeks after World War II came to a close, New York City witnessed an elevator operators’ strike in all its commercial buildings. This strike was called over a dispute on whether the building owners would implement the new recommendations of the War Labor Board. Unfortunately, and although this seemed like a great decision at the time, it ultimately made the job of an elevator operator obsolete. 

Up until then, most people were terrified of using elevators by themselves. However, as the strike raged on, the US government incurred a loss of $80 million, creating an urgent demand for driverless elevators.

As part of a new design, elevator companies even added a red “stop” button that modern elevators carry to this day. With more such safety features put in place, people gradually learned to use elevators by themselves, and elevator operators were no longer needed. (1, 2)


2 The FBI once started to build a tunnel under the Soviet embassy in Washington D.C. to spy on them. The construction took way too long to finish, was riddled with many problems, and once it was done, it turned out that the Soviets already knew about it. 

Operation Monopoly
The image to the left is used for representational purposes only, a replica of a bugged US great seal. Image credit: Shutterstock, wikimedia.org

During the Cold War era, the FBI is said to have greenlit a covert operation named “Operation Monopoly.” According to this plan, they would build a tunnel under the USSR embassy in Washington D.C to spy on the Soviets. Using the bugs placed inside the embassy, the FBI would then capture data and transmit it through fiber optic cables. 

Sadly, despite the ingenuity of this operation, the plan ended up being a waste of resources. This is because the tunnel was so prone to flooding that it had to be constantly cleared of water, causing the construction to go on for longer than planned.

Moreover, it turned out that there was a mole in the FBI who had already alerted the USSR about the tunnel. This rendered all the data collected meaningless because the Soviets had been feeding the FBI false information. (1, 2)


3 During the 19th century, traveling sailors introduced cats and rabbits to Macquarie Island in an attempt to restore its natural ecosystem. The cats were meant to fend off a rat infestation while the rabbits were to be used as food instead of the native fauna. However, this move resulted in the island losing 40% of its vegetation and two native bird species going extinct. 

Macquarie Island vegetation
Macquarie Island (on the left), Image to the right is used for representational purposes only. Image credit: Shutterstock

Since its discovery in the 1800s, sailors have been known to visit Macquarie Island to poach elephant seals. The sailing ships brought along rats from the mainland which then colonized the island.

Later, in an attempt to curb the rat population, sailors brought along cats and also let loose rabbits on the island so that travelers could hunt them for food. Together, these animals are thought to have wrecked the island’s natural ecosystem.

In the 2000s, scientists made another effort to save the island’s ecosystem. They released a virus called Myxomatosis that would eradicate the rabbits. But when the rabbit population dwindled, the cats started preying on the local birds. This caused the flightless rail and a parakeet species to go extinct, forcing the scientists to kill all the cats.

This too didn’t work because without any predators to kill them, the rabbits proliferated again and destroyed 40% of the island’s vegetation. Currently, experts are working on a $16 million plan to eradicate all the rabbits and rats on the island. (1, 2)


4 In 2012, the South Korean government teamed up with Samsung to reduce the number of people committing suicide at the Mapo Bridge in Seoul. For this, they installed motion sensors and screens that displayed positive messages to potential jumpers. The very next year, however, the suicide rate at the bridge increased by four times. 

Bridge of Death
Bridge of Death. Image credit: koreabizwire.com

The Mapo Bridge in Seoul, often dubbed the “Bridge of Death,” is notorious for the number of people who jump from it to kill themselves.

In 2012, to reduce the number of suicides at the bridge, the South Korean government teamed up with Samsung to install motion sensors and digital displays along with it. The screens would show positive messages whenever the motion detectors sensed movement, often asking questions or showing pictures of happy families. 

However, none of these measures seemed to have worked because the very next year, 15 people attempted suicide at the bridge. This number was four times higher than the previous year and was probably the result of the bridge gaining more publicity after the modifications.

In 2019, following the proven ineffectiveness of the signs, Samsung was forced to remove all of them. In their place, the government has now installed barrier protection to deter jumpers.

(1, 2)


5 The Soviet military is known to have fitted dogs with explosives and trained them to blow up enemy tanks in a kamikaze-like attack. The plan backfired horribly when the dogs got scared by the sounds of battle and ran back to their Soviet trainers, killing them instead. 

Fitted dogs with their trainers
Fitted dogs with their trainers. Image credit: Ninelli Ustinois Archive /russiainphoto.ru via rbth.com

During World War I, the Soviets began using dogs as anti-tank weapons. The dogs were trained to carry an explosive strapped to their backs and drop them off near enemy tanks. Their controllers would then detonate the bomb and destroy the tanks.

However, the dogs were too scared by the sounds of battle to follow any commands. The Soviets then decided to detonate the bombs while they were attached to the dogs.

This plan too failed because the scared dogs would simply run back to their handlers, killing them instead of the enemy. This then forced the handlers to shoot all dogs that ran back before they could get too close.

To make things worse, the soldiers often lost their morale in battle when they had to kill the dogs. Finally, in 1996, the Russian government phased out this practice, choosing to move the dogs to a more service-based role. (1, 2)

Also Read:
10 Strategies and Tactics Used in the History of Warfare

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