Have you ever opened a loaf of bread to find one moldy spot and gotten so grossed out that you wanted to toss the whole thing?Even though just one slice of bread is tainted, those little spores make your stomach turn so much that you might not even want to try to salvage the loaf. You’d rather throw it in the garbage and grab a croissant from Starbuck’s.
Similarly, when you have one negative employee – aka bad apple – on your team, it can disrupt the homeostasis of your whole department.Further, it can be really challenging to talk to that person about their behavior. Very few people enjoy confrontation, after all.
The good news? Just like you can save that loaf of bread once you get over the initial gross factor, you can save your whole team’s morale and performance – and your company’s bottom line – by addressing the issue diplomatically and directly.First, what defines a bad apple?A bad apple is someone who gossips, speaks negatively about the company, is frequently late or absent, handles client relations unprofessionally, or is straight-up lazy and therefore underperforming.The trickiest bad apples are those who have been with the company for years and perhaps were star players for a while, but have become jaded or resentful. Don’t be afraid to put a magnifying glass on everyone in your department and get honest with yourself.It’s important to communicate with a negative Nancy or Nick ASAP, since their behavior will permeate your team’s dynamic and performance as a whole.
If you have a bad apple on your team, this is your guide to getting them back in line, or letting them go.
Why is it important to talk to negative employees?
Three primary reasons…
1. Trust.When you let a dead engine cruise, you could lose your team’s trust. You build and maintain trust by responding to challenges head on and being direct in your communication style.Good leaders are ultra-communicative and always address problems – they don’t turn the other way.If you ignore the fact that a team member is negatively impacting the team, you could lose your employees’ trust.
2. Performance.One bad apple brings down the energy of the whole team, leaving folks less-than-inspired to put in their best work and commit to their daily, weekly, quarterly, and yearly tasks and goals.You might feel like your A-players should be able to perform no matter what, but the truth is that they’re human, and it’s difficult for anyone to do their best work in a negative environment. Yes, just one person can foster a negative environment, just like that one moldy spot can put you off the whole loaf of bread.3. Money.Whether you realize it immediately or not, a bad apple impacts your bottom line.A weak and/or negative employee could be failing to meet their goals and therefore bringing in less revenue.Their lackluster bottom line could be due to selling less products as a result of weak sales conversations, losing clients due to unprofessional interactions, and a slew of other reasons.Whatever your business model is, a bad apple doesn’t bring in as much revenue as a positive, hardworking team member. Furthermore, that person brings down team morale across the board, leading everyone to lag.Need more evidence that one bad employee impacts your bottom line?
Kinesis spells it out for us…
“Many of our clients work in the professional services arena, where each employee represents roughly $100-$200k in annual top-line revenue.Assuming any bad apple would be sub-grouped with 3 or 4 others, their influence could span roughly $500,000 per year.At only 60% efficiency, this could translate to over $300,000 in annual revenue lost –all a result of just one person.”
So how do you address a bad apple?
First and foremost, be direct and honest. Make it impersonal by giving each employee frequent manager feedback and setting up a peer-to-peer feedback system for everyone on the team.
Have a transparent plan in place to address negative team members. Pair up employees and have them give each other feedback every two weeks.As a manager, meet with each of your employees at least once a month for a 15-minute check-in. This way, the communication lines are open and there are no surprises at review time.When giving feedback, always be specific and provide examples so it doesn’t seem like a personal attack.
For example, telling someone they have a “poor attitude” will always feel like a personal opinion. Telling them you’ve noticed a drop in sales in the past quarter and providing a few examples of possible causes is more objective.
Share this approach with your team so they can learn to give each other effective feedback, rather than judging or attacking each other.
Last, set a deadline for behavioral change with any bad apples on your team. It’s important to create parameters so they know that they need to shift their approach by a certain date.This helps you chart progress so you don’t end up losing track of the issue – or pushing it under the rug so you don’t have to confront it. No judgment – this happens to the best managers. Confrontation isn’t easy.
If a bad apple doesn’t shift their behavior by the agreed-upon deadline, it’s time to let them go. Here too, be objective by sharing specific examples and numbers when explaining your reasoning for parting ways.It’s likely the employee already knows the company is no longer the right fit for them. By letting them go, you free them up to find a position where they’re inspired to work hard.
Do you have any bad apples on your team at the moment? What’s the first step you need to take to address them? How and when will you apply the system in this article?
If you have any questions about talking to negative team members, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.