One Bad Apple Can Rot the TeamTerence Mitchell, professor of management, organization, and psychology at the University of Washington Business School, along with doctoral student William Felps “analyzed about two dozen published studies that focused on how teams and groups of employees interact, and specifically how having bad teammates can destroy a good team.” They concluded:

  • “A single ‘toxic’ or negative team member can be the catalyst for downward spirals in organizations.”
  • “…in one study of about 50 manufacturing teams… 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. Consequently, the teams performed poorly.”
  • “…negative behavior outweighs positive behavior — that is, a ‘bad apple’ can spoil the barrel but one or two good workers can’t unspoil it.”
  • “Companies need to move quickly to deal with such problems because the negativity of just one individual is pervasive and destructive and can spread quickly.”

Some toxic team members can’t be coached and developed into a more positive place. They may be a bad fit for the team or organization.

However, our research shows that the team leader has a major impact on the energy, engagement, and attitudes of the people reporting to him or her. The leader’s coaching skills is a key factor.

Next week we publish my May blogs in the June issue of The Leader Letter. It features four short, fun, and entertaining videos clips on key approaches to coaching effectiveness which are highlighted in this issue.

You’ll also find vital points for growing leaders at all levels. You can use our 12 point assessment for a quick reflection on the impact your leadership, coaching, or culture is having on the people you lead. And building strengths that play to your passions — and those you lead — is proving to be a critical factor in increasing performance.

Of course, knowing what we need to do and doing it is one of leadership — and life’s — biggest challenges. We all know far more than we do. We often don’t need more information but perhaps more inspiration to move us to application. You’ll find a link to a webinar on execution and thought on knowing versus doing.

I agree with author and executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith, “as I have grown older, I am no longer interested in just helping leaders learn — I am interested in helping leaders do.”