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It Only Takes One Bad Apple

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All it takes is one bad apple to spoil the bunch. Like many maxims, it can be applied to many facets of every day life. A recent research report indicates that "one bad apple" can quickly ruin the atmosphere of the office. A negative employee brings conflict and stress to the workplace. A problem employee usually doesn't do an equal amount of work, is always unhappy and complaining, and bullies or intimidates others.

Negative behavior, the researchers found, far outweighs any positive behavior, so that several positive employees aren't able to offset one negative teammate. In fact, it often leads to a downward spiral, with more and more employees becoming unhappier and unhappier as time progresses. The news comes out of the University of Washington.

In order to take care of the problem, companies need to deal with the negative influence immediately. One solution is to have the employee work alone as much as possible. In effect, he should be cordoned off from other team members work-wise. Better yet, ensure that effective hiring practices prevent the problem from entering the building. Training managers to better screen potential hires helps, as do personality tests. These can easily weed out emotionally unstable or disagreeable people.

Case in point: The wife of the report's lead author observed that when a problem employee at her office was sick for several days, the atmosphere quickly changed. People began to help one another. They played classical music on their radios. Many went out for drinks after work to form closer bonds. However, once the problem returned, the toxic atmosphere returned, too.

Preview some of the lesson material:

Title: Speculate and/or discuss the contents of today's article from its title: "It Only Takes One Bad Apple."

Fragments: Remember how the fragments were used, and complete the sentence from today's article.

  1. Like many maxims, it can be...
  2. A negative employee brings...
  3. In fact, it often leads to a downward spiral, with more and more...
  4. In order to take care of the problem, companies...
  5. Better yet, ensure that effective hiring practices...

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. Do you agree, that "one bad apple spoils the bunch?" Why/not?
  2. Have you ever had a similar experience as the example? What happened when the negative person was away?
  3. If your office were "toxic," would you consider quitting? Why/not?
  4. What other solutions do you think might work with a bad apple? Why?
  5. Do you think that a bad apple usually knows he creates a negative atmosphere? Why/not?

Google Search: Type "bad apple" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.

Download the lesson:

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