What do you call those who are especially difficult, troublesome, or hard to work with? The answer is ‘Bad Apples,’ as instructs the title of a book from Brette McWhorter and Terrence J. Sember (www.vivagroupindia.com).

There is, however, no one picture of what a ‘bad apple’ is, the authors explain; these types of workers come with a variety of traits, personalities, and problems. “Some are so easy to spot that they may as well have flashing lights on their heads. Things like tardiness, leaving work early, failing to follow instructions, rudeness, argumentativeness, and inability to take direction are obvious indicators that you have a problem on your hands.”

The simplest and best way to identify a bad employee is to determine if he negatively affects the company’s bottom line, the Sembers guide. “If your team or department is not producing as expected – or is not showing increased growth at the rate you hoped – you should carefully consider the role that one bad employee is playing in the big picture.”

Just as one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, a sub-par employee can cause an emotional drain on the others in the team, the authors caution. “Negativity is insidious. It can easily become part of your team or company culture. One employee who is always negative will eventually wear down the positive attitudes of those around him, and your entire team will end up behaving in a negative manner.”

A chapter on ‘types of bad apples’ begins with gossips, of which there are two varieties. “The first is the blabbermouth who wants to talk about everything – people in the office, celebrities, her neighbours, her kids’ friends, and so on. This kind of a gossip can be a problem if all of her constant talking becomes a distraction for herself or for other team members.”

So, how do you deal with a blabbermouth? Remind her to get back on track, the authors advise. “Tell her that it’s fine for her to chat about anything during her breaks, but you expect her to concentrate on work during the workday.”

The second type of gossip is a more dangerous one, the workplace gossip. “This kind of employee talks about people in the office, spreads rumours, picks apart people’s personal lives, and focuses on who said what, wore what, did what, or acted how at work.” This is not only a waste of work time, but can also make other people in the workplace very uncomfortable, the authors bemoan.

The ‘passive-aggressive’ is another type of bad apple. The Sembers describe such employees as being stubborn, sullen, and silently resentful; the ones who agree to take on a certain task and then ‘forget’ because they really didn’t want to do it in the first place, but didn’t want to say no. “Instead of letting you know that a project isn’t within their area of expertise or comfort zone, they may do things poorly in the hope that they won’t have to do it again.”

Look around, and with the help of the book you would be able to identify further bad apples such as wasters (who often need to be redirected to get back to work), narcissists (who consider themselves as the ultimate saviours of their teams, the lynchpins in the entire process), liars (known for telling inflated stories about themselves), lazy bones (who always search for the easy way to do something), combatants (waiting for arguments that can ultimately exhaust everyone), poisoners (to whom no idea is ever good enough and no solution is right), bullies (who always must get their way), slobs (who can’t keep their work area neat, making the whole place look like a pigsty!), thieves (both of materials and ideas), whiners (oh, you can hear them in your head), and ‘our lady of perpetual crisis’ (living in a state of constant crisis, taking ‘six days off in one month because his wife is sick, his dog ran away, his car broke down, he sprained his ankle, and his house has termites’).

Final in the list is the job hater who is ‘determined to be eternally miserable, no matter what happens.’ It’s tempting to let him be miserable or wait for him to finally quit, but in the meantime he can significantly bring down the team’s morale, the authors rue. They urge managers, therefore, to help such an employee to identify things within his control that can make things better, and then help him implement these solutions. “Help him to emphasise the positives whenever you can.”

Valuable insights.



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