The bad apple bites back – How one negative experience can affect your culture.

A basket of apples at a market in Auvergne, France.


There is an old saying about one bad apple spoiling the whole barrel. Of course, like most clichés, there is a truth at the bottom of it. So how do you stay positive and upbeat when there is a bad apple in your day?


In my experience, most offices are fairly happy places. Over the years, I have come to believe that the reason workplaces are on the whole pleasant environments is because people enjoy doing a good job. Any recruiter will tell you that (and this is backed by research by the way) job satisfaction is one of the most important drivers for employees. We like to do a good job, so when we do, we are happy at work.


For many of us, this involves the customer being happy, so it’s no wonder then, that when that doesn’t happen, we react badly. A dissatisfied and unhappy customer can have more negative implications for a team than any other influence. Dedicated staff will begin to be affected by this situation very quickly, and it can be difficult to shake the feeling that you are not doing a great job for your clients. It is a short hop from here to a negative and then a quite a toxic environment where blame and buck-passing are the norms.


When this happens, we all need to stop, take a deep breath and think it through. Before that negativity sets in, ask yourself the following:



For most good businesses, the above will all be answered positively, but what happens is we tend to focus on what we could have done differently than what we actually did. So, before that crushing feeling caused by the dissatisfied customer sets in, look at the list above and look at it honestly. If you can’t say yes to all of them, then treat it as a learning curve and make it a positive opportunity to improve. If you and the team around you can all respond with a positive, then you acted:


Reasonably, Competently, Professionally, Exceeded Expectations and were Customer Focused.


If this is true, then perhaps you are not the issue. Sometimes the customer is not always right and just occasionally, for whatever reason, the working relationship is not meant to be.


That bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole barrel unless it spreads and if you don’t take stock of your actions and see the situation in the right way it can affect how you work, and pretty soon all the apples go bad.




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