We all know the analogy about one bad apple among a crop of healthy ones.

You put that rotten fruit among your untainted haul, and sooner or later, there’s an impact throughout.

Sadly, it can very much be this way with an underperforming, deviant or potentially toxic employee.

In recent times, we’ve heard examples of high profile staff in major organisations who chose to ‘run their own race’ or ‘write and set their own rules’, and while the actions of those individuals might not directly be seen at the time to do specific harm to colleagues, you can be sure it can have an effect on both the culture and reputation of the business.

First and foremost, it’s worth remembering that even the best employer, recruitment professional or headhunter can occasionally miss the telltale signs that a new candidate could have challenging characteristics.

And, equally relevant, is that a good apple can turn bad over time – not necessarily as a result of anything to do with your business, your management, or the freedom offered to that individual in their role.

But given how imperative it is for all concerned that you are able to prevent, spot, manage or exit a challenging employee, what are the key things to consider?

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Based on our extensive experience in helping companies, small and large, to contend with issues of this nature, here are our top tips and reflections:

1. It starts with recruitment

Part of getting the ‘right apple’ is about ensuring you’ve properly vetted and assessed the individual from the outset. Make sure you consider not just how ‘academically capable’ they may be, but what fit they are for your culture.

2. Probation has purpose

Few employers regret having a probationary period. It’s not the case in all circumstances, but for some individuals, you may spot poor behaviour and performance in a very early phase of their employment, and a probation makes it easier for you to assess suitability for the role and fit with the culture of the organisation and if necessary, part company.

3. Communicate culture consistently

Whether staff have been there five minutes or fifteen years, you should always be reinforcing the anticipated cultural norms for your business. If these are inherently reflecting trust, and honesty and teamwork, for example, then you’re continually reinforcing what’s expected of everyone.

4. Wisdom from whistleblowers

Do staff know that they have a right to report concerns, or feel comfortable doing so? Having a proper approach to this in place will ensure that you’re more likely to learn of behaviours or issues in a timely fashion, without them reaching devastating consequences.

5. Act swiftly on intuition or intelligence

Whether it’s a member of staff who alerts you to something, or that you feel concerned, don’t be the ostrich who digs their head in the sand. Know that an escalating case of a bad apple could devastate everything you’ve worked hard to create. Be clear on your legal processes, and start a process of communication and scrutiny.

6. Don’t make the issue ‘group-think’

One thing which is certain to send good employees packing their bags or feeling angry and hurt is if you try to deal with the issue of an individual by hiding behind ‘group responses’. You may feel more comfortable addressing a team in the hope that the bad apple hears your underlying message, but your good employees may feel you’re lumping them all in the same category – which is bound to cause offence.

7. Seek advice and manage the process

An external HR team can be really beneficial in this situation as they come from ‘outside the culture’ and can help you act appropriately, in a compliant manner, and with no emotion clouding your judgment.

They’ll also help you put a plan in place for what you may need to do to offboard the individual, and for repairing the culture in the future, should you need to.

If this is happening in your business today, please give us a call so that we can help you manage your crop effectively!