Bad apples and the people manager

Bad apples are the difficult employees. Bad apples bring down a team, negatively ‘inspire’ other team members, are a liability in a scrum team, bring down the productivity of the team. All of us would have worked with bad apples and there is adequate literature available on handling difficult personalities.

It’s a very common lean setup to have product, people and project responsibilities split up and this would mean there is a people manager whose sole responsibility is to handle the people topics like career, performance, hikes and most importantly handle the delicate people issues. I have had the honour of working with several people managers and a couple of them the best.

The people management vs the bad apples is normally a closely monitored topic in any team and often carries a emotional baggage with it. Somehow bad apples have the tendency to appeal to people more who look up to them more often than not as the brave rebel why couldn’t afford to be. It doesn’t take long to identify a bad apple but often difficult to treat them as how our body is unable to cure a cancer for the simple reason that they are caused by most insulted member and isn’t alien to body so as to be detected by immune system.

Often times, its inefficient strategy not to handle the bad apples. Though it’s the easiest option to reject those negative people, it should be the last option for people managers. The solution is to turn to bring about a positive turnaround in the behavior by having open talks, highlighting ideal people and rewarding them, understanding the root cause of this bad apple and offering the right rehabilitation path. I understand that this takes time and offers its own risks. However, the purpose of agile is long term benefits over short term benefits and that’s the leadership people managers can show.

Scrum masters will have to intelligently involve people managers at the right time without breaking the bridges that the team members have built with in the team.