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What is a Vicious Circle?

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A vicious circle is an iterative process that produces negative results that feed into the next iteration resulting in ever worsening results. It is associated with self-defeating practices and disadvantages that are difficult to overcome. For example:

Customer Service

Poor customer service may result in adversarial and unfriendly interactions with customers resulting in low employee satisfaction and work related stress. This may lead to worsening customer service and the cycle repeats.


Organizations that fail to innovate may lose creative and confident employees who are most likely to produce innovation. It may also become increasingly difficult to recruit talent as their reputation goes into decline. This leads to reduced capacity to innovate.


When a river is clean and beautiful people may not dare to pollute it. When a river is toxic and lined with liter people may not feel as bad to use it as a dumping ground.


Poverty can result in health, social and educational obstacles that lead to more poverty.
Overview: Vicious Circle
An iterative process that produces a negative result that makes the next iteration worse.
Also known as
Downward spiral
Vicious cycle
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