How to Prevent “Bad Apples” from Spoiling the Team

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Research shows that one “bad apple” – an employee with a negative attitude – can impact your entire team. It doesn’t take long before the gloomy team member infects others with their defeatist behavior.

Customer Service TrainingFirst, we need to understand why anyone would adopt an attitude that seemingly has no professional payoff. The answer is because there can be a social reward. An employee might make a negative comment for a laugh or to attempt to be part of a consensus.

So what’s the solution to negativity in the office? It’s isolation.

How? Remove the social incentive.

Isolate the behavior through direct and assertive responses. For instance, after a wisecrack about a new management focus, one could say, “I understand you feel that way, Chris, but I don’t, and I’m excited to hear about the new direction.” You remove the social incentive by showing that others on the team don’t share it.

The goal is to respond politely. It won’t work to challenge the person by saying, “Why are you always so darn negative?” Very few people will agree that they’re negative.

Likewise, it doesn’t work to debate: “You’re wrong about management. They have a good handle on things.” The negative person will counter with their own arguments. But a non-combative, polite response does work.

Here are two more examples:

  • “I hear what you’re saying, but I really like our new strategy. I’d like to give it a try.”


  • “You might think so, but I believe this campaign is going to work, and I’d like to learn more about it.”


Negativity spreads like a wildfire, bringing down morale, productivity and financial results. Solve it with an isolating response made in a courteous, non-aggressive way. Just say you respect their right to think as they do, but you don’t share their attitude. Soon, they’ll decide there’s no reward in being negative.