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All it takes is one bad apple

July 23, 2018

Team Management

Creating, building and maintaining a team can be a stressful enough task for leaders. So many factors play into the dynamic of the team, and the mood can change in the blink of an eye.

The leadership role often swings from enabler to peacemaker and back again in the course of a single day. The waters are choppy, and sometimes its hard enough to navigate without one person’s negativity bringing the whole thing crashing down around your ears.

But isn’t that what leadership is about? Coaching the team towards the end point, leading from the front, enthusing and engaging them in the project all the way? Well, not always actually. Probably not. A well structured team, well built and with the right attitude should work well together anyway, and that starts with hiring. For best results, its important to spot the bad apples early in the hiring process. Assessments, personality tests and thorough checked references may throw up clues to a person’s fit and how well they’ll work in the team.

Sometimes though, a bad apple sneaks their way onto the team, and that spells disaster. Negativity is a destructive force. It derails, disrupts and destroys the team ethos from within. That one person can bring the whole team down without most people even noticing. The drip-drip effect.

So what can a leader do about it? How to go about removing the toxic behaviour from the team, overcoming the negativity and bringing everyone back on course. Well, you could hope that the rest of the team can work around it and get through despite this bad apple. While that’s possible - it can and does happen - it doesn’t show support or leadership from the top down. Where’s the coach? they will ask, quite rightly. And left to fester, the problem will only ever get worse, we know that.

Confrontation is another way. Sometimes, people don’t actually recognise that their behaviour is negative or detrimental to the team’s work. It may just be a simple case of taking them aside, pointing it out to them, and letting them know that you’re monitoring the situation. Seen from your perspective, or that of the team, they may get it and alter their ways. We hope! This solution is obviously our favourite.

What if it goes the other way, if the conversation doesn’t work? Our apple just keeps on with the negativity, pulling his team down, and disrupting the project. Obviously, that’s when performance management comes into play, monitoring and keeping standards of behaviour and productivity high will bring about a change in attitude. It shouldn’t have to get to this point, and this is messy, but if needs must, needs must. One thing we do know is, doing nothing is not an option.

We can’t afford bad apples. No one likes them. They leave a nasty taste. They’re costly, time consuming and counter productive. Our teams are built on the strength of connections, on collaboration and sharing. Anything that breaks those links is dangerous, and all it takes is one bad apple.

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