One ‘bad apple’ spoils the workplace barrel

Lazy employee

One under-performing member can spoil the work of a whole team, according to a study by UNSW researcher Benjamin Walker, in which he tested the conscientiousness of team members, and proved ‘one bad apple’ at work can indeed ‘spoil the barrel’.

The research is being presented between 23 – 26 June at the ninth annual Industrial and Organisational Psychology Conference in Brisbane, hosted by the Australian Psychological Society College of Organisational Psychologists.

Walker’s study tested 158 students, who were divided into 33 teams to determine how the level of hard work and dedication of each team member can affect the productivity of an entire group.

According to Walker, conscientiousness involves discipline, a will to achieve and being painstaking and careful.

“We found that a single lazy person- someone low in productivity-drags the team down, reducing its satisfaction and performance,” he said.

However, the research found that impulsiveness, which is generally considered a negative attribute in the workplace, did not reduce the overall satisfaction and performance of a team.

While previous research found the average level of personality traits in a team defined its productivity, Walker’s findings prove that one weak link can have a huge impact.

“Even if on average the rest of the team is pulling their weight, they won’t be able to compensate for that member and they won’t be happy about it,” he said.