A Rotten Spoils The Barrel Essay

In a follow-up study, the researchers found the vast majority of the people they surveyed could identify at least one “bad apple” that had produced organizational dysfunction.They reviewed a variety of working environments in which tasks and assignments were performed by small groups of employees whose jobs were interdependent or required a great deal of interaction with one another.

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The two looked at how groups of roughly five to 15 employees in sectors such as manufacturing, fast food, and university settings were affected by the presence of one negative member.

For example, in one study of about 50 manufacturing teams, they found that teams that had a member who was disagreeable or irresponsible were much more likely to have conflict, have poor communication within the team and refuse to cooperate with one another. “Most organizations do not have very effective ways to handle the problem,” said Mitchell.

These two options, however, require that the teammates have some power: when underpowered, teammates become frustrated, distracted and defensive.

Common defensive mechanisms employees use to cope with a “bad apple” include denial, social withdrawal, anger, anxiety and fear.

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Usually undesired, unless you want to ripen bananas.

Put a green banana in a bag with a ripe, cut-up apple and watch it turn yellow.

The researchers’ paper, appearing in the current issue of Research in Organizational Behavior, examines how, when and why the behaviors of one negative member can have powerful and often detrimental influence on teams and groups.

William Felps, a doctoral student at the UW Business School and the study’s lead author, was inspired to investigate how workplace conflict and citizenship can be affected by one’s co-workers after his wife experienced the “bad apple” phenomenon.


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