Do You Know Who Your Bad Apples Are?

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One night a week I leave my house and work from a restaurant so I can focus and get a whole chunk of stuff done at once. It’s not glamorous but it offers a constant stream of caffeine, free wi-fi, and is open until 1am.

Last week, after I’d been hunkered down for about three hours, a verbal fight broke out about ten feet from where I was seated. It turns out the manager had asked an employee to mop the floor. He said no. She asked him again. He very loudly said, “I am not paid to mop the floors. We have a cleaning crew for that. My job is to stand here and get the customers their food.”

Mind you, it’s midnight and I am the only non-employee in sight. No one needs food and this employee has literally been standing there doing nothing for a very long time.

The managers’ frustration grows as she asks the employee again. He continues to be defiant as he smart-mouths all the reasons he isn’t paid enough to mop floors.

Now the manager is yelling.

And the employee is yelling back.

And I'm thinking um, customer here…right here! I can hear you and this is so freaking awkward. Now I’m staring and my mouth is wide open and I’m rubbernecking because this train wreck is unbelievable and…do you need a coach because I help make people happy and no one is happy right now!

Finally, after five solid minutes of awkward-uncomfortable-employee-yelling the employee is told to go on break. He gets back exactly thirty minutes later which I only know because the minute he came back he proceeded to mouth off to another co-worker about how much he hated the manager and how he wasn’t going to do anything she said. Not only did he refuse to mop the floor but he put up such a fuss that none of the other employees mopped the floor either. Mind blowing.

It was painfully obvious to me that this guy was a bad apple who was bullying his manager. He should have lost his job on the spot but I know he didn’t because I’m back seven days later and that bad apple is still standing at his post waiting for a customer to show up. There are no mops in sight.

In typical Marisa fashion, we have taken the long way to get to the point of this rant but here it is:

Bad Apple Employees will absolutely crush your culture. They will de-motivate your best employees, they will spread negativity amongst your teams, and they will drive your customers away. Get rid of them. Don’t make excuses, don’t give them a gazillion chances, don’t send them to Smile Training. Fire them. Your best employees will thank you.

Who is your Bad Apple Employee? I know you have one. Think about what you can do to prevent this person from spreading negativity in your organization.

Image Credit: Sven Teschke, Wiki Commons


Marisa Keegan is a leadership coach, trainer, and HR consultant for quickly growing organizations who are passionate about strengthening their employees, their brand, and their culture. She has helped lead the HR, culture, and engagement initiatives at two nationally recognized great places to work; Rackspace as Culture Maven and Modea as Talent Manger. She is an author at Fistful of Talent and Culture Fanatics. Marisa has her Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology and currently lives with her husband and twin boys in Richmond, Virginia. 

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Marisa Keegan


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