Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Rotten Apple Theory

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One rotten apple will spread its mold or decay to its neighbours. This is known as “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch”. A person can be called a rotten apple for being a bad individual among a good group. Some research has show that the efficiency of a team is dependent on its laziest member, rather than the best one or average member. It reminds me of another famous theory called “short plate theory” which says that the amount of water that a wooden barrel can contain is not determined by the longest piece of wood, but it depends on the shortest piece of wood.

In general speaking, I agree with these theories. If one of the team members is lazier than the others, gradually other members will feel that is unfair if they always work harder than him/her. So other members will slow down their pace inwardly until in the end the whole team has a similar speed to the laziest person.

In the information industry, a bad apple will not only encumber the process of a team, but also damage other people’s work. This is because he or she may introduce more issues which need other people to fix them. That will bring extra work for other team members.

We can easily throw away a rotten apple to prevent it from spoiling a bunch. However we cannot easily remove a bad person in a team. Such people often spend more time to curry favour with bosses even though they are not good at work.

How much difference one apple can make is really dependent on what role he or she plays. If he or she is just a low level member in a team, other people may still be able to compensate for that member. If he/she is a manager, that person will definitely corrupt a group.

There is another side of the bad apple theory. Once a person is marked as a “bad apple” by people, he or she will be often accused of something wrong which is not even his/her fault at all.

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