Infective Team Dynamics

Your business is run by teams.  Now, more than ever, you have to be sensitive to team killers – the one or two individuals that drag a high quality group of people into the mud. We’ve all dealt with them.  The individual who just seems to be in the way, not pulling his weight or simply a jerk. 

Some interesting research by Dr. William Felps, Rotterdam School of Management, indicates that team effectiveness can be reduced by 30% to 40% through the simple addition of a single ‘bad apple.’  He describes his research in a recent episode of This American Life and had it published in the 2006 journal, Research in Organizational Behavior, Volume 27, 181–230. 

Bad apples were described as jerks, slackers and depressive pessimists. I really enjoy the inventiveness of the experiment.  They hired an actor to play one of the three parts in a series of team meetings put together to solve a problem. The negative personality INFECTED the other team members reducing output efficiency.

In the past, I have felt that a good team could survive a negative member or two, but this research indicates the reverse may be true.  Because of the infectious nature of the negative attitude more direct and immediate action may be required by a team leader who wants to be effective.  The good news is that positive attitudes can be infective as well!

In today’s world of shrinking budgets and staff, there is no room left for Jerks, Slacker or Depressive Pessimist.

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