Recognizing Your Bad Apples

Years ago I joined a company, reporting to one of the vice presidents. It quickly reached the conclusion that he was a terrific interviewer and externally, he represented the company well.

He had a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality. Outside of work, he was funny, charming and friendly. At work he was selfish, lazy and uncommunicative. He was a lousy leader, manager and supervisor.

Later I came to the conclusion that there is almost always someone on every management team like my former boss – a rotten apple.

What are the symptoms and warning signs you have a bad apple working for you?

The first is that this person must have a staff reporting to them. This is more than a security blanket; it provides a cloak of importance and status.

The second is that they do not supervise the people that work for them. Their subordinates never hear praise and rarely get either direction or feedback. Performance appraisals are never done on time–if they are done at all.

Appraisals are done simply because the bad apple has been told to do them, “or else.” Minus the “or else,” performance appraisals would not be done at all. When they are done, minimal effort goes into the finished product.

If, as the owner, you suspect someone is a bad apple, ask your suspect’s subordinates to see the latest performance appraisals they received.

Third, the bad appleapple is full of advice for everyone else. The bad apple never commits to anything in writing; pontification must be verbal. Putting something in writing is a commitment, a promise, they avoid to extremes being held accountable for anything.

Fourth, follow-through never happens. So, while always talking a good game, the bad apple does not honor commitments. It is as if the words spoken by a bad apple went out into the universe as they were spoken, to be remembered by others but not by the bad apple.

Fifth, the bad apple never fires anyone. Yes, they grumble about the mistakes that subordinates make. They do this only because the subordinate has done something that has made the bad apple look foolish or stupid in front of others.

Sixth, a bad apple doesn’t believe in training or educating subordinates. This is because it is too much work and too big of a hassle to actually spend more than the minimal required interacting with subordinates.

The seventh is that this individual is against growing the company. That might be too harsh; they don’t care if the company grows as long as they don’t have to work any harder or are imposed upon if it should happen. But, they are not going to go out of their way for it to occur.

What are they really against? They are against any additional burden, work, effort, paperwork, meetings, business travel, loss of vacation, sick days, or imposition on anything that will prevent them from doing as little as possible for as much salary, bonus, benefits, vacation or sick days that you, the owner, give them.
The bad apple sets a horrible example for others in your company. Some will quickly grasp the situation for what it is and simply ignore him or her. Others, unfortunately, will see this person as a member of management and emulate their behavior. This will cause a rift in the company and the one thing you don’t need is another human resources issue to deal with.

Bad apples aren’t tolerated in the produce department and are tossed out once identified. My former boss got fired after I departed. Had he been fired before I resigned, I might have stayed on.

It’s about a month into 2017. It’s time to take into account that sometimes the people that “got you here” won’t “get you there.”

Is it time to toss out any bad apples you have?