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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
An architect's notes, experiments, discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

Search from over a hundred HOW TO articles, Tips and Tricks


HOW TO spot a bad apple or a problem team member

A study on team dynamics has found that groups that had a bad apple (a person with a personality type of "Depressive Pessimist" or "Jerk" or "Slacker") would perform worse and other team members begin to take on the bad apple's characteristics.

...the worst team member is the best predictor of how any team performs.

Jeff Atwood writes...

While it's depressing to learn that a group can be so powerfully affected by the worst tendencies of a single member, it's heartening to know that a skilled leader, if you're lucky enough to have one, can intervene and potentially control the situation.

Still, the obvious solution is to address the problem at its source: get rid of the bad apple.

Even if it's you.

So how to spot a bad apple in a team or know if you are turning into a bad apple?

Jeff quotes Steve McConnell on the possible warning signs that you're dealing with a bad apple on your team:

1. They cover up their ignorance rather than trying to learn from their teammates. "I don't know how to explain my design; I just know that it works." or "My code is too complicated to test." (These are both actual quotes.)

2. They have an excessive desire for privacy. "I don't need anyone to review my code."

3. They are territorial. "No one else can fix the bugs in my code. I'm too busy to fix them right now, but I'll get to them next week."

4. They grumble about team decisions and continue to revisit old discussions long after the team has moved on. "I still think we ought to go back and change the design we were talking about last month. The one we picked isn't going to work."

5. Other team members all make wisecracks or complain about the same person regularly. Software developers often won't complain directly, so you have to ask if there's a problem when you hear many wisecracks.

6. They don't pitch in on team activities. On one project I worked on, two days before our first major deadline, a developer asked for the day off. The reason? He wanted to spend the day at a men's clothing sale in a nearby city -- a clear sign he hadn't integrated with the team.

Related: Book Review: Software Project Survival Guide

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