Beware how this one thing can hurt your workplace culture

0522, The DiJulius GroupWe have all heard that one bad apple spoils the bunch.  If you want to keep your workplace culture healthy, beware of the bad apple.  I recently saw a sign in a business window that read: “We are hiring”. Then it listed numerous positions, likely every position they had. That wasn’t what shocked me, though. What was shocking was the message at the bottom of the sign: “We do not drug test”. So many businesses continue to look similarly desperate when they are understaffed, making them less attractive to top talent. Most companies hire reactively, racing to fill openings caused by either turnover or growth. When companies reactively hire, their objectivity is distorted and their hiring standards become compromised, because one bad employee can spread like cancer even in a healthy workplace culture.


The brands that will survive the Great Resignation Era will be 

the ones who remained relentless with their hiring standards

In Business and Private Settings, It Only Takes One

The age-old proverb “One bad apple spoils the barrel” serves as a perfect metaphor for workplace culture. I find the results of the following experiment to be such an ah-ha leadership moment.

*RelatedA Leadership Epiphany On Workplace Culture

Professor Will Felps, a professor at the Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, conducted a fascinating study demonstrating contagious behavior in the workplace culture. He split his college students into groups of four and instructed each team to complete a management objective. In addition, he offered the team who performed the best a hundred dollars each. What the students didn’t know was the professor included an actor on some of the teams. These actors played one of three roles. A “Slacker” who would disengage, put his feet up on the table, and send text messages; a “Jerk” who would speak sarcastically and say things like, “Are you kidding me?” and “Clearly, you’ve never taken a business class before”; or a “Depressive Pessimist” who would look like his cat had just died, complain the task was impossible, express doubt that the team could succeed, and sometimes put his head on the desk.

Felps’ first finding was, even when other team members were exceptionally talented and intelligent, one team member’s negative attitude brought down the effectiveness of the entire team and created a toxic work environment. In dozens of trials, conducted over month-long periods, groups with one under-performer did worse than other teams by an alarming rate of 30 to 40 percent. It truly only takes one to make a huge impact on workplace culture.

To make matters worse, the other members started mirroring the poor team member even in the short time of one class. As Felps explains, “Eerily surprising was how the others on the team would start to take on his characteristics.” When the impostor was a Slacker, the rest of the group lost interest in the project. Eventually, someone else would announce that the task just wasn’t important. If the actor was a Jerk, others in the group also started being jerks by insulting one another and speaking abrasively. When the actor was a Depressed Pessimist, the results were the starkest. Says Felps: “I remember watching this video of one of the groups. You start out all the members are sitting up straight, energized, and excited to take on this potentially challenging task. By the end, they have their heads actually on the desk, sprawled out.” No Rules Rules Hastings, Reed; Meyer, Erin


If you spend most of your time coaching an employee up,

trying to get them to “get it”, you are hiring poorly


*RelatedThe Correlation Between Happiness at Work and Overall Life 

It is Better to Lose the Sale Than the Reputation

This is the hardest thing for any entrepreneur or senior leader to do. As leaders of businesses, we all want sales growth. It is our oxygen, it is what we strive for, strategize for. It is what most of our incentives are based upon. However, anytime you compromise the experience you provide to your client because you are wanting to capitalize on the sale, but you are allowing a less-than-excellent employee or untrained rookie to serve them, you will lose sales in the long run. You will never recover from the poor reputation nor the impression that the client now has about doing business with you. You will lose the client, and worse, the brand assassination that the customer is now doing will prevent potential customers from doing business with you.

Too many companies are trying to solve staff shortages by hiring people as fast as they can just to fill positions as well as keeping toxic employees with bad attitudes. But these decisions do nothing to establish a culture of trust in the workplace; they all but guarantee animosity between employees, creating a hostile work environment. Trust, between leaders and their employees, and between employees, is an essential aspect of culture in every healthy organization. Conversely, a lack of trust is one of the top barriers to business success.

In any job market, the cost of employee turnover rates is high. Not only the hard cost of the time spent recruiting, screening, and retraining new employees, but in employee morale, lack of consistency in customer experience, and existing team members questioning their decision to stay. Ignoring the bad behavior of some of your staff is the last thing that will make your current employees happier. In fact, a dysfunctional work environment is one of the strongest predictors of employee attrition. And the best talent is never attracted to poor company culture known for employee burnout. In a time when online employee feedback provides warning signs about organizations’ cultural issues to job seekers, negative work environments don’t stay hidden for long.

For the Greatest Success, Focus on Employee Experience

0522b, The DiJulius GroupThe number one priority for businesses today needs to be focusing on keeping their top talent by improving internally and creating a more positive, collaborative culture. This must be part of every company’s core values and foundational to its employee experience. Stop trying to find great employees. Instead, develop an action plan for your cultural improvement efforts. Focus on becoming the type of business great employees find, then infuse this energy into your customer experience training and watch your employee retention and happinessand your bottom linesoar.

*RelatedHow to be the Brand Employees Can’t Live Without

*New Customer Experience Executive Academy starting in September ’23

Episode 117 of the CSRev Podcast 

How to Crush the Competition with Service

0522c, The DiJulius GroupChief Revolution Officer John DiJulius of The DiJulius Group talks with entrepreneur and author Hank Ebeling. Hank has built his successful fitness centers by focusing on the member experience.

You will learn:

  • Why most small businesses aren’t able to deliver world-class service
  • The easiest thing any business can do right now is to better their customer service
  • What the biggest mistakes are that businesses make with new hires and integrating them into their culture
  • The power of surprise and delight and examples




“An addictive experience happens when what you are providing is so extraordinarily unique and memorable your customers crave it, and it compels them to need it again.”


Check out this one-minute video on How Keybank dramatically improved their client experience

Register for the 2023 Customer Service Revolution Conference and save $250



About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.