The Giant Impact of One Small "Bad" Apple on Your Team

Jun 25, 2012, Written by Sue Miley

Small business owners tend to underestimate the impact of one bad apple on their team and their business.  I don’t think it is purposeful denial.  It just goes against the math.  How can such a small percent of the team makes such a huge dent in morale? Productivity? Excellence?

If you are a small business owner, you are busy fighting fires and pursuing your passion.  You just assume everyone else on the team is too.

You may also assume that everyone is like you and just knows to do what needs to be done.  This is probably not true because you are the entrepreneur.  Entrepreneurs tend to do what needs to be done.  People that work for entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily entrepreneurs themselves.

This is sometimes where the crossroad comes in.

Entrepreneurs Don’t Like To Be Managed Therefore Don’t Manage Others

You are an entrepreneur who has lots to do and has fun doing all different activities in your business.   Except managing.  Entrepreneurs don’t like to be managed so they assume no one else does either.  If your team is made up of non-entrepreneurs you may be in trouble.

Think about it.

If you, the entrepreneur, don’t like to be managed, and therefore don’t manage, yet, you have employees who do like to be managed and aren’t getting managed…..

Do you see the problem here?

This may lead to the bad apple.

Bad Attitudes Are Irreversible

The problem is that once the apple rots, it isn’t going to get fresh and ripe again.  Even if we want them to.  Even if we pray.  Even if we start managing!

I know it isn’t fair.  And the problem isn’t necessarily because you didn’t manage either.  It could be that they were always a little rotten.  Sometimes with good management we can freeze the decaying, but sometimes not.

And so it spreads.

Remember, even if you start managing the odds are against the bad apple changing.

Is It Christian to Stop The Spreading?

They can change though.  Maybe at their next job.  The one they get after you let them go because they are destroying the morale of the whole team.

I know you may be thinking that this doesn’t sound very Christian.  It can be though.  I am not saying to let them go in a mean, condescending, kill their self-esteem manner.  I wrote this post Why Christian Business Owners Need to Be Good At Firing People.

I just know letting them stay at your company and kill the attitudes of everyone in a 100 yard radius is not good for your team or them.  Tough love is just that.  It is difficult, but it can be loving.

Loving Others Sometimes Means Tough Love

The bible tells us to love others and to treat others as we wish to be treated.  I don’t know about you, but I can honestly say that I would want someone to stop me before I ruined the morale of a team or company.  I may not realize I am having that kind of impact, but if my employer knew, then they should stop me.

Besides, as a Christian, I have a responsibility to care for the rest of the team also.  It is very frustrating to positive people to have someone negative in their midst.  It is even more upsetting when the boss sees it and doesn’t do anything about it.  This is the beginning of the domino effect of the bad apple.

Others begin to get a bad attitude.

And then one day you, the small business owner, don’t even feel like going into your office.

You wonder why.  Then you realize it is because the environment and team have all turned into bad apples.

You underestimated the impact it would have on your team.

On you.

Reader Interactions


  1. Lorrain Doucet says

    Hey Sue,
    Great article! Sure is easier to want to do something baout it now. BAD apples and bad management – rings a bell. Thanks for helping me.
    I pray that those that read this, and know the problem in their office would take action.
    Sure do miss you.
    Love you

  2. David Rupert says

    Sue, you are at it again, producing amazing resources for the world!
    Far too many businesses, organizations and even church leadership put up with such bag eggs….to their detriment.

    Do the right thing and move them along. It will save your team’s mission, focus you, and just might be enough to save that other person!

  3. Kim says

    I found you via The High Calling.

    What a breath of fresh air this is! I love how you applied Christian principles to the situation. It is so sad that so many do not recognize the power of a bad apple to rot an entire barrel. When you don’t let them go, you are condoning their behavior and essentially turning your back on your team.
    My husband recently was made supervisor of a department, and there was an individual he did his best to lead, i.e., to help change, to no avail. He let the person go, and folks have just marveled at the change in the department. They are pulling together as a team and enjoying their work more.
    It is the best thing for all concerned.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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