Why is it that “1 bad apple” always upsets the apple cart for others?

bad appleWhy does it appear that negative behavior always get the attention. You can have 20 students in a class, for example, 19 of them abiding by the rules and respectfully doing their studies as instructed yet 1 and only 1, chooses to be defiant and not abide by the rules or do their studies. Which person(s) do you think receive the most attention? It may not be positive attention, as viewed by the majority, but enough of a diversion from the norm that the flow of energy in the room abruptly comes to a halt.

I clearly remember certain individuals in various classrooms while growing up, that acted out in ways that shocked me beyond belief. A few decades back, the teachers had the authority and backing from the majority of parents to intervene with disciplining their children, in whatever way was appropriate. I do recall a few incidents in which the teachers were actually pushed to the point where they emotionally and physically lost it, yet as a child, I felt the teacher’s response was correct, in comparison to the inappropriate behaviors they were being confronted with. I was brought up with consequences for behaviors and these incidents were clear violations on the parts of the students involved yet the teachers were overly reprimanded and not the students.

Psychology Today Aug 11, 2008 by David Pincus described bad apples as-“acquaintances, family members and co-workers whose mere presence can suck the life right out of you. They also kill the good energy of larger groups.” “Bad apples are people who are internally conflicted. These internal conflicts can spread to level of groups; in turn decreasing a groups’ complexity, flexibility and ability to grow and adapt.”

Carol Bowser, Pres. and Founder of Managing Conflict (Vol IV, Issue 21, Jan 09) quoted an audio presentation by Will Felps (Prof. Rotterdam School of Management in Netherlands), “According to a study 1 person in less than 5 minutes can take a team from exited and purposeful to apathy and in fighting. The bad apple behavior of jerks, slackers and depressive pessimists becomes a contagion.” Per Ms Bowser (Atty., mediator and trainer), “there are reasons why well-meaning people don’t call the bad behavior and make different choices.” “Per Ms Bower, they are:

  1. “Coworkers assume the “bad apple” knows that his/her behavior will self-correct.
  2. People don’t know how to call out the bad behavior without escalating the situation.
  3. When things go bad, people just want the bad experience to be over – quickly – but don’t realize that by not addressing the situation, it will go on longer.
  4. Employees and managers don’t know how to positively re-enforce pleasant behavior without feeling awkward; for example, ” Wow, great job on not acting like you normally do…”.
  5. Some folks are scared that the “bad apple” will turn the negative energy on to them.
  6. The “bad apple” folks fail to recognize their own bad apple behavior, thus don’t do anything to change.
  7. Alternatively, the “bad apple” folks DO recognize their own behavior but:
    a. it works for them or
    b. no one has called them on it
  8. People don’t have role models on good behavior at work, so they make it up or use the same poor behavior at work that they do at home or with friends.”

Ms Bowser goes on to say “So what does this mean? Is it hopeless? NO!! The power of one also works for the good. The power that each of us has to empower one another through listening and trying to create an atmosphere of acknowledgement and recognition.”

My personal synopsis of the overall topic is similar to the behavior and effects of bullies on their victims. These people or ‘bad apples” have to be called on the carpet. If their behavior is unruly and disrupting, it needs to be called that. As per Ms Bowser’s comments re: there being hope, we must bank on the good of others in backing one another up when addressing such people. The only way to make a “bad apple” good is to put reality right back in their face, ie. you’re speaking out in class without permission is causing disruption  in learning for others in the class. We all want you to stop now or need you to leave. If you choose to stop as We ask, then you may stay and must raise your hand and be recognized to speak, if you have something significant to contribute to the class.

Obviously, there are exceptions and each situation will dictate how it needs to be handled accordingly. The standards of acceptable behavior must be raised back to higher levels-where they use to be. If unacceptable behaviors, then consequences (cause/effect theory as well as personal accountability which works). No more trying to pretend that we all function as “politically correct”; the bad apples sure don’t. Everything good takes effort, as well as your words have to have meaning. What a better day to start than today!

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