The Bad Apple Does Spoil the Bunch

When I teach Strategies for Stakeholder Engagement, I get many questions about dealing with tough cases, problem children…yes, bad apples. Organizational theory assumes that group dynamics make that old saw obsolete: a group can send any bad apple to the bottom of the barrel. However, recent research suggests that a team that tolerates a bad member runs the risk of poisoning itself.

  • Invariably, groups that had the bad apple would perform worse….
  • Even worse, other team members began to take on the bad apple’s characteristics….
  • What they found, in short, is that the worst team member is the best predictor of how any team performs….

The situation isn’t hopeless–there was one group who had a strong leader that diffuse these situations–but it requires skills in a specific leadership style. And of course, there is one approach that does get to the root cause.

Still, the obvious solution is to address the problem at its source: get rid of the bad apple.

Even if it’s you.

As they say, read and listen to, the whole thing.

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