Addressing the Rotten-Apple-People Problem
Rotten apples – negative, destructive, self-absorbed, unethical employees – pollute organizations.
Passive leaders – those who tolerate rotten apples – create rotten environments by default.
Leaders who tolerate rotten apples are rotten themselves.
You don’t need a study to determine if your culture sucks.
- People use blind copies in email.
- Gossips win.
- Territorial managers stake out and protect turf.
- Leaders live in ivory towers.
- Competition is about winners and losers not performance.
- Getting by is the goal.
- Smiles and laughs are rare.
Your culture sucks if people don’t love working in it.
Organizational culture is simply the way you do things – how people treat each other. Yesterday, a Leadership Freak contributor suggested social contracts as a tool to create and protect organizational culture.
Social contracts say you’re serious about the way you do things.
- Address issues in the smallest context possible. Dirty laundry is kept in the laundry room.
- Expect you to connect with colleagues and teammates.
- Take responsibility to improve things we don’t like.
- Pursue the best interests of all parties, always.
- Call you out if you let others down.
- Speak candidly with compassion.
- Forgive offenses that are acknowledged and addressed.
- Say one thing to your face and another behind your back.
- Tolerate posturing and puffing behaviors.
- Lie, ever.
- Blow up.
- Hold grudges.
- Have secret agendas.
- Complain without bringing solutions.
Violating our social contract is grounds for warnings, corrective action, and dismissal, if necessary. You might be sent to our, “Be Nice,” class for social delinquents.
Everyone is authorized to point out violations of social contracts, regardless of position or tenure.
What would you include in an organizational social contract?
Hello Dan, what happens when the top apple violates the social contract?
Same as when the “bottom” apple violates the social contract.
A group I worked with almost 15 years ago had a social contract. It was the best work experience I’ve ever had. We were together for three years until the job was completed, always supportive, never a violation – and we’re still in touch after over a decade of not working together. I highly recommend it.
I would just put brochures about the cruise I would take everyone on after we grew another 8400%(company wide not just my branch) by improving our culture everywhere so our greatest assest, our people could see a tangible reward for honoring their social contract.
I Concur with myself as usual!!!
I’ve held on to the notion that working with volunteers is vastly different and accountability is more difficult. This post opened my eyes to some things and I am going to think about what should be in a social contract for the teams I work with.
Holding grudge is very common symptom where cultural practices suck people. People create grudge based on their assumption, propaganda, rumor and convenience. I agree that they believe in complaining without solutions. They do so, because of perceived safety in doing so. They believe that if someone complains against them, it will not be good. So, it is better to complain about others so that we can protect our position. You have rightly mentioned that rotten people tolerate rotten people. And it becomes cycle.
I would add one more symptom here- ” blame culture”. Though it looks similar to complain but it is different. Blame culture exists when people avoid taking accountability. They want to take credit in case of success, but give credit to others in case of failure. This emerges from top when leaders shift their responsibility to others. In such culture, people become fearful. And they feel safer in blaming others for their mistakes. Since mistake is treated negatively and viewed seriously here, every one avoid taking risk and hence people make less effort at workplace leading to lowering performance.
The idea of a social contract is a great way to hold
everyone accountable (including the leader) to creating a culture
that creates joy and productivity. Thank you for sharing.
This should be a wake up call: “Your culture sucks if people don’t love working in it.” Well said!
Personally, I see this a necessity for any business! Unfortunately these negative behaviors create a cesspool that continually drags a business down in every way. It only takes one contaminate to infect the entire company! This includes the owners, managers, supervisors and every other level. I have worked in environments where a contract like this may have created a much different scenario. Unfortunately, in the business world today, we are forced to develop contracts to avoid behaviors which should not even be a way of life! Thank you for sharing this idea!
I am new to an organization in which my team could benefit
from this contract. As a sales team they are reluctant to meeting
standards (measured goals) and negative behaviors are beginning to
show as structure is being put in place. One or two rotten apples
are surfacing. I plan to implement this social contract with our
how should I deal with the rotten apple if the team is
mandatory and it is not up to me to decide chose my team mate? even
if I limit his interaction from within the project I can’t limit
his interaction with his teammate (in other word polluting the
“kwitcherbitchin” and do something is a great philosophy. Empowering team members to actually “do” something even under a social contact would be difficult as repercussions would always be presumed. There will always be leaders, supervisors and managers whom the juniors feel suppressed by and inferior to.