Many of us have heard the phrase “that one bad apple can ruin the whole barrel”. This adage has been used for centuries to relate individual behavior to the ability of a rotten piece of fruit’s ability to spoil an entire barrel of unspoiled fruit. Many of us have used this word picture to illustrate the need to beware of bringing toxic individuals into to our teams and workplaces. This old adage is still true; my experience has taught me that in virtually every organization there is one individual universally regarded as detrimental to the mission, vision, values and strategies of the organization. This is a person who comes to work every day intent on being disruptive and uncooperative. No organization needs a team member like this. If employees exhibit toxic behavior, the organization will also exhibit toxic behavior. However there is a reverse to this principle, and that is bringing good workers into a toxic environment will also yield a similar result. As leaders, we must have the ability to identify toxic members of our organizations but we must be introspective enough to recognize if we are as leaders are creating toxic environments that are hindrances to collaborative and cooperative work environments. This is why the sole key indication of organization effectiveness is individual leader behavior. We must have the ability to recognize bad apples in our organizations and at the same time recognize if we as leaders are creating a bad barrel. Just as if we brought a bad apple into a good barrel, the same result would occur in bringing good apples into a bad barrel. The end result is a toxic environment, exhibiting dysfunctional and disruptive behaviors. No aspect of either scenario can be good for an organization that wants to productive.
Whether we have bad apples or bad barrels, we must recognize that negative work place behaviors will never drive performance and will always harm patients, drive down morale and create toxic environments, because it cannot bring people together to create anything of value. The cure is collaboration, without it negative competition and conflict reign – two conditions in which medical error are likely too occur. Likewise staff morale and motivation are low, performance is inconsistent and unreliable, and communication and cooperation are non-existent. Who wants to work in this kind environment? As leaders if we want succeed, and create a workplaces that promotes the goals of our organizations that exhibit the mission, vision and purpose than we do so by first creating a culture of collaboration. We do so by improving our communication, our cooperative attitude, and bringing together integrated teams.