What IT Managers Need To Do About Bad Apples On Their IT Team

by drjim on February 23, 2012

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Just A Few Bad Apples Can Spoil It For Everyone Else

Just A Few Bad Apples Can Spoil It For Everyone Else

One of the most important jobs that a IT manager has to do is to manage the people that work for him or her. I’d like to be able to tell you that all of those people are going to be start performers. However, that’s not the case. Where an IT manager can run into real problems is when some of the team are bad apples – lazy, angry, or just downright incompetent. What’s an IT manager to do?

Why A Bad Apple Is Such A Big Deal

Doesn’t every IT team have a few bad apples? Isn’t that just something that a IT manager needs to learn to live with? Yes, the bad apples exist, but no that’s not something that an IT manager needs to live with – it’s too expensive.

Robert Sutton has taken a look into just how expensive bad apples can be. What he’s found is that research has shown that just a single bad apple in a group can bring the group’s overall performance down by 30-40%.

It turns out that the behaviors that a bad apple brings to the table, incompetence, anger, and laziness, are very contagious. The reason for this is well knows: Bad behaviors are stronger than good behaviors. A bad apple causes negative thoughts and feelings to occur in other members of the IT team and these last longer than any positive thoughts or feelings that they may receive from positive coworkers.

What An IT Manager Needs To Do About Bad Apples

The first thing that an IT manager needs to do is to show some leadership and make sure that bad apples don’t find their way into their IT team in the first place. The concept is simple, it’s the execution that can be hard to do.

When you are interviewing someone to come work in your IT team, they may appear to be the perfect candidate. They may have gone to a great school, worked for the best companies, and appear to have just exactly what you are looking for in an IT worker. However, they may also be a bad apple.

What you need is some way to detect that they are a bad apple before you actually hire them. One way to go about doing this is to invite them to actually come and perform tasks for your company for a day or two.

By having them perform the work that you’ll be having them do in situations that are realistic, you’ll quickly be able to evaluate their personality. You can find out if they are helpful to others and if they know when to ask for help themselves.

If a bad apple does slip by your new employee screening process, then an IT manager needs to quickly take management action. There are a number of different options that you have at your disposal. You can try warnings, coaching, and incentives. In the end, you always have the “nuclear option” available to you – physically isolating the bad apple.

Sometimes the bad apple may be one of your IT stars. No matter. The damage that a bad apple can do far outshines the value that a star brings to your IT team. Do the right thing and either transform or get rid of your bad apples. Your team will thank you for it.

What All Of This Means For You

Not all IT employees are created equal. Some are stars and some may be bad apples. An IT manager needs to take immediate action when a bad apple is detected.

A single bad apple can hold back an entire team and reduce their effectiveness. IT managers need to establish screening techniques that will prevent bad apples from being hired in the first place. If a bad apple does somehow get into the IT team, then the IT manager needs to take steps to get them to change – or to leave!

It’s always more fun for an IT manager to focus on the star performers in the IT team. However, it turns out that spotting the bad apples and making sure that they don’t get a chance to spoil things for the rest of the team will go a long way to boosting any IT dream team’s productivity!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think an IT manager should even bother trying to change a bad apple or should they just be let go?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Can’t an IT manager just rise above all of the politics? I mean really, with all of the technology leadership decisions that need to be made along with the business processes that need to be streamlined, can’t we all just skip the politics and get down to business? It turns out that we can’t and that means that as an IT manager you’re going to have to show some management and make sure that your dream team is good at playing the office politics game…

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