One Bad Apple
I know what you are thinking but no, I am not doing a
tribute to Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. Although I will admit that their hit song from the 70’s keeps rolling around in my mind as I type this. While the Jackson Five might have believed that “One bad apple can’t spoil the whole
bunch” I don’t think that they were responsible for getting high quality production results from their bunch. The fact is, in business one bad apple can make your life and the life of the people who work for you, pretty miserable, reduce production from your organization, and even cost you good employees.
The “one bad apple” that I’m referring to of course, is that one bad employee in your department who drags everyone down with them. I’m not talking about the employee who is temporarily struggling with their productivity. A lot of employees go through that problem from time to time. With training and coaching, these
are potentially very productive employees. And I’m not talking about that the employee who is going through some personal problems and is struggling to keep their business and personal lives separate. This is also a temporary situation that usually rectifies itself relatively quickly. Instead I’m talking about the
employee who seems to have made it their personal mission in life to be unhappy, and to ensure that everyone else around them is just as unhappy as they are.
These “bad apples” come in various shapes and sizes, all kinds of different backgrounds, and all different levels of experience.
You have the:
· Information hog – who hides key information about their tasks and projects
· Martyr – whose assignments are always more difficult than any else
· Bully – who intimidates all those around them
· Professional Devils Advocate – who never met a concept that they actually liked, but they will gladly take credit for any concept that actually works
· Company/Management Haters – who spend all of their free time telling anyone who will listen (and many that won’t) how bad and evil the Company and Management Team really is
· Slacker – who never really seems to do anything, but is always telling everyone how busy and overworked they are
Generally speaking, it’s not hard to tell if you have a bad apple in your group. They do tend to stand out. They wear their misery with pride. All kinds of bad things happen to them routinely, but the problems are never their fault. And anyone who is nearby (and some who aren’t so nearby) will hear about it. The problem is not that they are miserable. The problem is that they make everyone
else miserable as well. Sometimes it’s pretty blatant. They actively incite or intimidate those around them so that no one has a comfortable working environment. They get their power by sucking the life out of people around them and they know exactly how to do that.
As a leader, your team looks for you to lead and to remove obstacles that can keep them from being productive. This bad apple is an obstacle and how effectively you deal with them is a barometer that your staff will measure you by. The place to start is with Performance Management and measuring their productivity. But don’t limit Performance Management to production only. Remember that all members of the team are responsible for soft skills as well
as hard skills and that an employee who produces acceptable numbers but doesn’t share information, or bullies those around them is still a Performance Management problem. Manage the soft skills the same you manage the hard skills, with detailed Performance Plans. Remember, even if they play key role in your department one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, for everyone. Work closely with your HR representative to ensure that you are in compliance with both company policy and federal law, but you must remove them.
And speaking of HR reps, take a minute to think about yours. A good HR rep is worth their weight in gold. A good HR rep will help you in identifying problem employees when the issues go beyond straight production. They will also work with you to ensure that you are working the issues both legally and that your conclusions are based on fact and not emotion. A good HR rep is also a boon for the employees, because they will work with the employees to improve their performance by identifying problems before they become severe. If you are one of the lucky ones that have been blessed with a good HR rep, then take the time to thank them for their work. Being an HR rep is a thankless job, and never more so than when they are doing the right things by being actively involved in resolving problems.