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Bad apples

Troublemakers pose a serious threat to projects and workplace productivity

M. Vasanth Kumar
M. Vasanth Kumar

As we all know, teamwork is an essential ingredient for success in any project. Teamwork thrives where people perform to their true potential and align themselves with project goals.

Even in the best of circumstances, nurturing a spirit of teamwork is a difficult feat. Conflict, poor communication, different attitudes and perspectives – these are just a few of the myriad issues that cause a rift among team members.

Managing conflict is one of the greatest challenges of leading a successful team and the root cause for this is due to nothing other than human behaviour.

Like it or not, in every organisation and in every project there will be bad apples. These are the people who can create havoc by constant complaining.

Simply put, they are troublemakers. Even though bad apples aren’t always poor performers, they can still be master manipulators.

They can be from any side of a project’s stakeholders – from the owners’ side, from consultants or from the contractors’ side. Research has shown that even though the percentages of bad apples are relatively small, the sheer amount of time and effort required in dealing with them is huge.

Bad apples can prevent others from succeeding in work. They disqualify all positive things and only say bad things behind others’ backs. They are often unfriendly and rude, interpersonally exploitive, lack empathy, unleash haughty behaviours and put others down by unfair treatment.

They have thoughts and beliefs that contain words like ‘must’, ‘should’, ‘need’, ought’, ‘have to’, and they are often very demanding and depressing. In a nutshell, they make lives more difficult and decidedly less pleasant.

One of the reasons for that sort of behaviour is they have personality and emotional issues.

The word personality refers to the pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviour that makes each of us the individuals that we are.

Generally speaking, personality doesn’t change very much – but it does develop as we go through different experiences in life and as our circumstances change.

Bad apples are characters that are unsure of themselves and nervous about failing. They don’t trust easily and won’t let others build relationships. They possess narcissistic personality issues, harass others by invading their personal lives by calling regardless of the time and expecting an immediate response. They tend to act impulsively and recklessly – often without considering the consequences.

These are the weeds that can damage the morale of the project team and even the project. As these weeds seldom eliminate themselves – in fact, they tend to spread – they need to be contained by nipping them in the bud.

Other choices are to just whine and moan yourself thoroughly miserable about the lamentable state of the world or just temporarily tolerate the unbearable in the pursuit of longer term goals. The decision is yours.

About the author:
M. Vasanth Kumar is chief executive officer of Arabian MEP Contracting

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