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Study: One Bad Employee Can Ruin the Bunch

By: Jack Skeen, PhD

Leadership development expert explains recent study and how employers can protect their staff’s integrity

Is bad behavior contagious? Most teachers would probably agree that it is, but a recent study on corporate America suggests that it is not just kids who can be peer-pressured into behaving badly.

“A new study has found that simply working alongside a dishonest employee can encourage formerly honest employees to start making dishonest choices,” says Jack Skeen, Fortune 500 leadership coach and the co-author of a new professional development book, The Circle Blueprint.

Skeen explains that the Harvard Business researchers found that employees were 37% more likely to commit fraud if they began working with an employee who had a history of criminal behavior.

“These findings are compelling because they affirm what many bosses have suspected for years,” says Skeen. “One bad employee really can ruin the bunch, whether that means that it leads to an increase in fraud, or an increase of employees coming in late, gossiping instead of working, or simply carrying a toxic attitude into each workday.”

However, the leadership coach says that the answer isn’t simply to fire the bad employee.

“In many cases, I don’t think bad employees are truly to blame,” says Skeen. “Instead, I think it is a failure of leadership. If a boss truly has the respect and admiration of her staff, then her employees will want to perform well for her. But, if rules are unclear or are enforced randomly and unfairly, it won’t be long before employees start pushing the envelope and seeing how much they can get away with.”

Skeen says that if bosses want to keep work performance from suffering, they need to look inward and seek ways to become more humane, compassionate and inspiring leaders. “A bad apple can ruin the bunch, but a good leader can turn a so-called rotten fruit around,” says the author.


About Jack Skeen, PhD

JACK SKEEN, PhD, is the founder of Skeen Leadership Group, an executive consulting firm. Skeen coaches successful leaders, addressing every imaginable leadership, business, and life issue with wisdom and professionalism. He is the co-author (along with Greg Miller and Aaron Hill) of a new book, “The Circle Blueprint: Decoding the Conscious and Unconscious Factors that Determine Your Success.” In this book, Skeen shares a powerful framework for creating a thriving and successful life. His system helps people identify destructive patterns, beliefs, and mindsets that inhibit their success and walks them through the steps necessary for awareness, growth, and self-mastery. To learn more and take the self-assessment, visit The Circle Blueprint.

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