“Bad Apples” and Their Effect on the Work Environment

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Sexual harassers, who can often be deemed the “bad apples” of the work place, often have a large negative effect on the work environment beyond merely the conflict between the harasser and the victim.

The Wall Street Journal recently printed an article titled “How a Few Bad Apples Ruin Everything”, which analyzes how nasty or incompetent employees can harm workplace environment and productivity more than one might initially assume.

It is common psychological knowledge that negative interactions can have a far greater and longer lasting impact on one’s mood than positive interactions. Researchers Will Felps, Terence R. Mitchell and Eliza Byington found that having just one employee who was a “deadbeat”, “downer” or “jerk” could bring down group performance by 30-40%.

The negative impact that one “jerk” can have is an important thing for employers to consider when it comes to dealing with complaints of sexual harassment. An employee may be extremely productive and valuable to a company, but if peers report instances of sexual harassment which affect the overall work environment, such an employee may no longer be such an asset.

A positive work environment and strong rapport amongst employees is important in maintaining high productivity and satisfaction levels for all employees. A “bad apple” employee, in the form of a sexual harasser, can often cause more damage to the workplace environment than any benefit that may be derived from his or her employment.

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