Pittsburgh — March 26
Every organization has at least one: That employee, who for whatever reason, behaves as though coming to work is a fate worse than death.
They are your company’s “bad apples,” And Joanne G. Sujansky, Ph.D., CSP, founder and president of KEYGroup, warns that if you want to keep them from spoiling the whole barrel, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
She cites a recent study — conducted by William Felps, a doctoral student at the University of Washington Business School, and Terrence Mitchell, a professor of management and organization at the UW Business School and a UW psychology professor, and published in Research in Organizational Behavior — that explores just how much damage one bad apple can do.
“This study takes an interesting look at a problem that is all too prevalent in corporate America,” Sujansky said. “The authors point out that it’s likely that your bad apples are harming your other employees’ morale, which can lead to an overall team breakdown.
“When bad apples are present, people aren’t as willing to handle problems that arise, don’t foster open communication with one another and generally stop functioning as a team — not a great recipe for high performance and productivity.”
Managers should make dealing with bad apples a top priority, but as Sujansky points out, doing so is no easy (or welcome) task.
After all, managers are only human, and bad apples have a tendency to be just as draining for them as they are for everyone else in the company.
In fact, many managers don’t know how to even begin dealing with these problematic employees.
“It’s been our experience that bad apples usually comprise only a small percentage of an organization,” Sujansky said. “But because they require more effort to handle than other employees, it’s not uncommon for managers to spend a great deal of their time dealing with or listening to the bad apple’s various concerns or complaints or the complaints they receive from other employees about the bad apple.
“Clearly, managers need to think about the illogic of such an efforts-to-results ratio.”
If managers don’t deal with their bad apples, their “spoiling” effects will only multiply. The first step, though, is understanding just what makes these employees so incredibly difficult to handle.
“Another important point the study makes is that companies can avoid the bad apple disease altogether,” Sujansky said. “I wholeheartedly agree, and in fact, this is a topic KEYGroup constantly addresses with our clients.
“Success lies in fail-safing your hiring practices. Hire for talent and values and character, not just for skill sets. You can teach people the skills they need, but you can’t always teach work ethic or integrity or respect.”