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Kill The Bad Apple on the Team


Throughout my years of working in fast growth companies, I have been lucky to work with excellent female managers: Rigorous yet creative, passionate yet disciplined, empathetic yet focused on results. They generally had a fantastic bullshit detector, stronger than that of their male counterparts.

I did however identify a fairly systematic common flaw that I have myself: female managers tolerate the bad apple in a team for much too long.


Identifying the Bad Apple

A bad apple is the non-performer, whose work habits negatively impact a full team around them. The bad apple can be charming yet destructive or the bad apple can be downright political and destructive. Bad apples usually don’t realise their defects or if they do, they don’t see the impact of those defects on other people and the organisation.

A bad apple can be extremely competent at their job and yet negatively impact a company’s performance. This type of bad apple is usually the worse. Indeed, people will praise their competencies and often disregard their negative impact on the team.

Regardless of the type of bad apple, they are always contagious. Sadly, one bad apple has the impact of 30 great employees, when it comes to team moral and productivity.

One single individual can destroy a fantastic team.

What I find fascinating is female managers tend to identify the bad apple very quickly and yet they hesitate to remove it from the work environment.

In one of my companies, I worked with an extremely smart and competent HR manager. From a technical perspective, she could not be faulted. She was an excellent recruiter and talent spotter. She managed legal and compliance issues with calm and serenity.  And yet she fundamentally resented the company founders. Furthermore, she saw her role as controlling team members and what she considered to be their bad habits. In a very subtle way, every one of her communications via email or in team meetings or one2ones sent negative messages to team members. And yet when we got together at the board, nobody acknowledged the hugely disruptive impact of our HR manager. We would complain about it after a few informal drinks amongst ourselves or make jokes about it but we never properly acknowledged that the situation required dramatic action.


Don’t Indulge in Avoidance Techniques

Women, far more than men, will leverage many avoidance techniques to delay managing the bad apple out.

We somehow feel guilty and responsible for their failures, particularly when they are nice people.

We will find excuses for their shortcomings.

We will do the work for them to compensate for their shortcomings.

We will avoid them instead of confronting them.

We will rearrange work around them.

All this, of course, tends to simply alienate the bad apple further and enhance their bad behaviours. And we often lose the respect of our other team members in the process.


Speed is of the essence in dealing with the bad apple

Bad apples rot over the weeks and their negative powers enhance overtime at tremendous speed.

It is essential to deal with them as soon as they are identified.


 Recommendations when dealing with the bad apple

Trust your instinct.

Talk openly to the suspected bad apple about what troubles you in their behaviour.

Share your worries with other senior managers.

If nothing improves in three weeks, act and remove the bad apple from your organisation.

Don’t worry about the competencies you are losing, everybody can be replaced…everybody!

Explain openly your action to your fellow managers.

Manage communication pro-actively with the rest of the team.


The impact of removing the bad apple is instantaneous. The positive effect will ripple through the organisation in less than 24 hours and you will feel centered again in your own role.


Let’s be happy and successful!