The Bad Apple

rotten apple II

Problem Employees and How to Deal With Them.
[Part One of Two.]
THOSE OF US WHO ENJOYED THE GUILTY PLEASURE of Donald Trump’s latest escapades in The Apprentice all rec­ognize the phenomenon of the “bad apple.”

Bad apple behaviors

There are two types of bad behavior in a corporate con­text—covert and overt. Overt bad behavior is easy. You know the type: a yeller, a bully, someone who gets overly emotional or anxious and upsets everyone around. These overt behaviors can be openly challenged and addressed.

Covert bad behavior is often even more insidious and difficult to pinpoint. Bad-Apple-Bruce exhibits some of the more challenging covert behaviors: manipulation, gossiping, criticizing without a solution, taking credit for the work of others and setting others up to fail.

No matter what you do about your bad apple, the most critical thing is to take action. Tell him or her the problem, and be decisive about your course of action.

The good news is, leaders are not only born, they’re also made. The best-case scenario? Bad-Apple-Bruce gets a 360-degree assessment, which opens his eyes to his bad behavior. A good 360-degree assessment consists of gathering con­crete and useful feedback from every level surrounding the executive in question. His or her boss, peers, clients and direct reports all provide important data, which is then put into a format that can be read and digested over time. 360-degree feed­back programs only work when they are done well. They can’t be used to single out an individual, nor can they be used without preparation and dialogue about how to use the data effectively. An important recommendation to obtain the best results from a 360 degree evaluation, they need a debrief­ing coach who can uphold confidentiality and provide an anchor for change.

Again as a best-case scenario, let’s imagine that after he goes through the assessment process, Bruce actually wants to change. He works one-on-one with an executive coach or confidential thinking partner to help him work through the changes he wants to make, create a plan and execute that plan. How likely is it that Bruce will do a 180-degree turnaround after his 360-degree? Not very, but with help, he may eliminate the worst of his behaviors and begin to feel more secure in elevating others into leadership positions. People have been known to change after they have a life-altering experience, and, for some, hearing the truth after years of coddling can be just that. If Bruce makes the decision to change, the bad apple may become a good egg.


Join us next week for Part Two when we discuss what to do if your bad apple is . . . Rotten to the Core.


About karlinsloan

Karlin Sloan has committed herself to finding out what makes great leaders tick, and to supporting leaders to be the change they wish to see in the world. As a corporate citizen she is an advocate for triple-bottom-line reporting, for creating sustainable ways of working and living, and for creating positive organizational communities that work together for the greater good. She is the author of the acclaimed business book Smarter, Faster, Better; Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership which has been translated into Thai and Russian, UNFEAR: Facing Change in an Era of Uncertainty, and co-author of the 2012 book Lemonade: The Leaders Guide to Resilience at Work. For more information see or
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