Can One Bad Apple Spoil the Whole Employee Bunch?


We have all encountered that one person in our workplace that we continuously avoid. They constantly are complaining about something and nothing is ever their fault. They walk around with a black cloud over their head and when you see them coming down the hall, you scurry into an empty office or turn in the other direction. They are angry, negative, lazy, or maybe even an all-around…jerk.

But do they have to drag you and everyone else on the team down? The simple answer is yes! But why is this, since you and others on the team are fairly positive and energetic? “Bad is stronger than good,” says Roy Baumeister, Social Psychologist at The Florida State University. Negative feelings and emotions last much longer than positive responses.

An experiment by Will Felps, Associate Professor at Erasmus University, found that having just 1 slacker or jerk in a group can bring down the performance of the entire group by 30-40%. 

So what can companies and organizations do to shield themselves from bad apples? Below are 3 suggestions that have worked in other organizations.

Don’t hire bad apples in the first place. Have the applicant come in for several rounds of interviews with both management and peers. Remember, just like a first date, a potential employee is going to put their best foot forward. So, to take this process a few steps beyond the interview , consider having them come into the workplace and give them team assignments to complete. (Of course pay them for their time). Lastly, consider hiring a corporate team building expert to see if the applicant can “gel” with existing employees via a series of team building exercises.

Implement a “no jerk” rule. Robert W. Baird & Co. has such a policy. “During the interview, I look them in the eye and tell them, ‘If I discover that you are a jerk, I am going to fire you,”, says CEO Paul Purcell. They do not tolerate bad behavior in the workplace and they act quickly to expel such a person from the company.

If you need to keep them, hire outside help. Sometimes your organization is not in the position to get rid of the bad apple. Perhaps they are your star performer. Or they are of a certain age that could warrent legal action against your company. Or you are dealing with a union. Whatever the reason, whether it is economic or legal, that negative ion is here to stay.

Hiring a team building company can help get your employees into a fun group setting outside of the office that can let the group become aware of each other’s strengths and shortfalls. Becoming aware is the first step toward real change and a skilled facilitator can direct the group toward positive goals.

Larry Lipman, Owner of Fun Team Building, puts together activities that inspire building trust & employee motivation. Larry is a Team Building Specialist who coaches participants into powerful, cohesive TEAMS. Fun Team Building is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Call Larry at 770-333-3303 today or visit to learn more about his programs.

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