Friday, February 23, 2007

A Bad Apple or a Positive Deviant?

How one bad apple can create a toxic team More research related to yesterday's topic of group dynamic (virtual and non) that came through on an ACM feed this morning.
According to Felps, group members will react to a negative member in one of three ways: motivational intervention, rejection or defensiveness. In the first scenario, members will express their concerns and ask the individual to change his behaviour and, if unsuccessful, the negative member can be removed or rejected.

If either the motivation intervention or rejection is successful, the negative member never becomes a bad apple and the "barrel" of employees is spared. These two options, however, require that the teammates have some power: when underpowered, teammates become frustrated, distracted and defensive.

Common defensive mechanisms employees use to cope with a bad apple include denial, social withdrawal, anger, anxiety and fear. As a result, trust in the team deteriorates and as the group loses its positive culture, members physically and psychologically disengage themselves from the team.

Felps and Mitchell also found that negative behaviour outweighs positive behaviour – that is, a bad apple can spoil the barrel but one or two good workers can't unspoil it.

"People do not expect negative events and behaviours, so when we see them we pay attention to them, ruminate over them and generally attempt to marshal all our resources to cope with the negativity in some way," Mitchell said.

"Good behaviour is not put into the spotlight as much as negative behaviour is."

However Felps and Mitchell warn that there is a world of difference between bad apples and employees who think outside the box and challenge the status quo.

Since these "positive deviants" rock the boat, they may not always be appreciated, but unlike bad apples, they often help to spark organisational innovation.

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