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Bad Apples


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#1 spraff   Members   -  Reputation: 100

Posted 20 February 2009 - 05:57 AM

This short blog entry just caught my attention. The three "bad apple" archetypes mentioned (pessimist, jerk, and slacker) clearly don't cover all types. I remember being in one team with two bad apples. One had the best intentions but simply could not let go of an idea, no matter how poor, once he had invested time in it. Another was bright and enthusiastic, but spectacularly ignorant and preoccupied -- nobody knew he needed help with something until the last minute. Let's try to enumerate "bad apples" types. What have you experienced? Also, have you ever been a bad apple yourself? I remember in one team I was over-confident and said "yes" to every request, thinking I was being helpful, but that raised expectations to unrealistic levels and I ended up disappointing several people, whose own work was seriousy devalued because my contribution was abandoned, scaled-down, or patchy.

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#2 spraff   Members   -  Reputation: 100

Posted 20 February 2009 - 06:00 AM

Ooh ooh ooh, let's name them. I call my first two "Blinkered" and "Half-There", and myself "Naïve Wannabe"

#3 Sirisian   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1771

Posted 20 February 2009 - 08:02 AM

Quote:
Original post by spraffOne had the best intentions but simply could not let go of an idea, no matter how poor, once he had invested time in it.
Been there. I did a group project in HCI. We had a team member that was so confident in his idea of a certain feature in the GUI we were designing but in practice and the other 2 members and I really didn't like it, but he wouldn't let the idea go. He even went behind our backs and drew the features in a separate part of our paper prototype and even butted into the presentation one of our group members gave to point out his feature. Frustrating to say the least. (The best part was when the professor pointed out the feature wasn't that useful and was targeted a little too narrowly toward a certain audience. :P)

However, I myself have been a "bad apple" in a group. I was in a games programming class and after doing a few games in groups I got a little too ambitious on the last project and ended up not finishing it and letting my group down. Sucks.

#4 brent_w   Members   -  Reputation: 100

Posted 20 February 2009 - 08:15 AM

I've been a bad apple a few times.

Usually it involved biting off more work than I could chew.

#5 Richy2k   Members   -  Reputation: 313

Posted 20 February 2009 - 08:23 AM

I bin bad apples.
Adventures of a Pro & Hobby Games Programmer - http://neilo-gd.blogspot.com/Twitter - http://twitter.com/neilogd

#6 LessBread   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1411

Posted 20 February 2009 - 08:25 AM

Compost!

#7 Bregma   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5246

Posted 20 February 2009 - 08:27 AM

Umm, I would be a blinkered pessimistic jerk slacker who's only half there.

#8 polymorphed   Members   -  Reputation: 272

Posted 20 February 2009 - 09:03 AM

The Jerk Slacker describes a lot of people I've worked with.

#9 Trapper Zoid   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1370

Posted 20 February 2009 - 09:56 AM

I've been a pessimistic team member before, but I was the Test Coordindator; that was my job! [smile]

The worst type of bad apple I'd found is the Prima Donna: a special kind of jerk that rubbishes everyones ideas and demands special attention but actually has a good amount of skill themselves (although usually not as fantastic as they think). The few examples I've seen tend to be in senior technical positions where they have a lot of power while shirking responsibility. I find this type especially annoying because are really hard to get rid of. They're one of the most skilled people on the team, usually workaholics and have control of a core part of the project, such as code written in a way only they understand (gah, I hate that!). But they can destroy morale by ignoring or rubbishing the rest of the team, and wreck havoc on a project timeline by demanding to work next on whatever they feel like rather than the boring work that's on the critical path.

#10 Dmytry   Members   -  Reputation: 1148

Posted 20 February 2009 - 10:59 AM

Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
I've been a pessimistic team member before, but I was the Test Coordindator; that was my job! [smile]

The worst type of bad apple I'd found is the Prima Donna: a special kind of jerk that rubbishes everyones ideas and demands special attention but actually has a good amount of skill themselves (although usually not as fantastic as they think). The few examples I've seen tend to be in senior technical positions where they have a lot of power while shirking responsibility. I find this type especially annoying because are really hard to get rid of. They're one of the most skilled people on the team, usually workaholics and have control of a core part of the project, such as code written in a way only they understand (gah, I hate that!). But they can destroy morale by ignoring or rubbishing the rest of the team, and wreck havoc on a project timeline by demanding to work next on whatever they feel like rather than the boring work that's on the critical path.


I've been in situation when rest of team is outright incompetent (and unaware of it) and have mostly rather bad ideas, which I must carefully tiptoe around so that they never understand mistake. (When they aren't total fools, that's near impossible). Americans seem to take it much more personally than Europeans in my experience, and I never worked with Australians.

#11 owl   Banned   -  Reputation: 364

Posted 20 February 2009 - 11:16 AM

Demostrating too much individual brilliance can be discouraging for the rest of the team. If the work in play needs more than one person to be done in time, having just one person motivated (even if he is ultra-brilliant) isn't enough.

I think individual brilliance achieves more when applied through the rest of the team unoticedly.

So, being brilliant can make you a bad apple too. Bad news.

#12 MSW   Members   -  Reputation: 151

Posted 20 February 2009 - 11:18 AM

About 9 years ago I was in middle management. I headed a department of about 18, as well as being part of a middle management team of around 8. Then the company hired a consultent to help increase productivity and efficientcy, as my deptarment was constantly ranked high in those measurements, I got drafted into that team as well. Bad apples all around.

Biggest one I had the most issues with (in the form of different people on all three teams no less) is the "enforcer" - reluctant to accept change, clings to old processes, wants everybody to do the same.


#13 Dmytry   Members   -  Reputation: 1148

Posted 20 February 2009 - 11:25 AM

Quote:
Original post by owl
Demostrating too much individual brilliance can be discouraging for the rest of the team. If the work in play needs more than one person to be done in time, having just one person motivated (even if he is ultra-brilliant) isn't enough.

I think individual brilliance achieves more when applied through the rest of the team unoticedly.

So, being brilliant can make you a bad apple too. Bad news.


Well, if rest of team is so dull they get demoralized when someone in team is good... what would they achieve on their own? Perhaps its better for the "brilliant" to just leave and find team of more similar people.

#14 owl   Banned   -  Reputation: 364

Posted 20 February 2009 - 11:27 AM

Quote:
Original post by Dmytry
Quote:
Original post by owl
Demostrating too much individual brilliance can be discouraging for the rest of the team. If the work in play needs more than one person to be done in time, having just one person motivated (even if he is ultra-brilliant) isn't enough.

I think individual brilliance achieves more when applied through the rest of the team unoticedly.

So, being brilliant can make you a bad apple too. Bad news.


Well, if rest of team is so dull they get demoralized when someone in team is good... what would they achieve on their own? Perhaps its better for the "brilliant" to just leave.


Perhaps it is better for the "brilliant" to be brilliant enough to arrange getting things done on schedule.

Or at least try...

#15 Dmytry   Members   -  Reputation: 1148

Posted 20 February 2009 - 11:29 AM

Quote:
Original post by owl
Quote:
Original post by Dmytry
Quote:
Original post by owl
Demostrating too much individual brilliance can be discouraging for the rest of the team. If the work in play needs more than one person to be done in time, having just one person motivated (even if he is ultra-brilliant) isn't enough.

I think individual brilliance achieves more when applied through the rest of the team unoticedly.

So, being brilliant can make you a bad apple too. Bad news.


Well, if rest of team is so dull they get demoralized when someone in team is good... what would they achieve on their own? Perhaps its better for the "brilliant" to just leave.


Perhaps it is better for the "brilliant" to be brilliant enough to arrange getting things being done on schedule.

How, by doing everything himself? That is a trap, something you shouldn't try to do. This is technical brilliance we're talking about here, not management. This technical "brilliant" is likely just average at managing people, and every bit as demoralized by rest of team as team by him.

#16 owl   Banned   -  Reputation: 364

Posted 20 February 2009 - 11:31 AM

Quote:
Original post by Dmytry
Quote:
Original post by owl
Quote:
Original post by Dmytry
Quote:
Original post by owl
Demostrating too much individual brilliance can be discouraging for the rest of the team. If the work in play needs more than one person to be done in time, having just one person motivated (even if he is ultra-brilliant) isn't enough.

I think individual brilliance achieves more when applied through the rest of the team unoticedly.

So, being brilliant can make you a bad apple too. Bad news.


Well, if rest of team is so dull they get demoralized when someone in team is good... what would they achieve on their own? Perhaps its better for the "brilliant" to just leave.


Perhaps it is better for the "brilliant" to be brilliant enough to arrange getting things being done on schedule.

How, by doing everything himself? That is a trap, something you shouldn't try to do. This is technical brilliance we're talking about here, not management!


No, helping without making feel the rest of the team how less brilliant they are. Some times a good song badly sang "in group" can be more moralizing than a good song sang just by only one excellent solist.

#17 Dmytry   Members   -  Reputation: 1148

Posted 20 February 2009 - 11:38 AM

Quote:
Original post by owl

No, helping without making feel the rest of the team how less brilliant they are.

Beyond basic good manners, how? Under-performing?
If rest of team are not total idiots, they'll see if you're performing better than them.
And if best people on team aren't performing to best of abilities so that rest of team feels useful... well in that case project is anyhow doomed (if it has to compete with projects where best people do perform the best they could).

Don't you get it that when there is the competence gap, its that brilliant person who is the most demoralized by gap? Say there is 10 people, 1 much better than 9. He's demoralized by 9 performance gaps and those 9 people are demoralized by 1 gap each.

Quote:

Some times a good song badly sang "in group" can be more moralizing than a good song sang just by only one excellent solist.

"sometimes" is when the purpose isn't to have best performance.

#18 owl   Banned   -  Reputation: 364

Posted 20 February 2009 - 11:45 AM

Quote:
Original post by Dmytry
Quote:
Original post by owl

No, helping without making feel the rest of the team how less brilliant they are.

Beyond basic good manners, how? Under-performing?
If rest of team are not total idiots, they'll see if you're performing better than them.
And if best people on team aren't performing to best of abilities so that rest of team feels useful... well in that case project is anyhow doomed.

Quote:

Some times a good song badly sang "in group" can be more moralizing than a good song sang just by only one excellent solist.

"sometimes" is when the purpose isn't to have best performance.


You're assuming that you'll always be given the best team you can possibly work with. And you're already portraying a bad apple attitude towards a problem.

Usually in a team, tasks will be divided. If you're brilliant enough you can identify the tasks that are having problems and you'll be there to give "support", not to overshadow people with your brilliance.

#19 Trapper Zoid   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1370

Posted 20 February 2009 - 11:53 AM

Quote:
Original post by Dmytry
Americans seem to take it much more personally than Europeans in my experience, and I never worked with Australians.

I don't know about the comnparitive cultures. In industry I've only worked with Australians, and in academia (where most of my work has been) the cultural mix is extremely diverse. We're probably somewhere between the U.K. and the U.S. in terms of culture, or maybe closer to the Irish. It's extremely hard to make comparisons! One thing I suspect is that Australia favours the team over individuals, as it's sort of a general culture thing. While we love individual heroes, we love them to be modest and above all, respectful of their team mates. You've got to know your place: tall poppy syndome is a big part of social dynamics here.

I've never had any problem with team members being "too brilliant" if they use their abilities for the good of the team. The danger is if they start thinking that only they have the ability to do the work and they turn into "The Maverick", a close relative of the Prima Donna. A maverick will take a large chunk of the project that "only they" can solve and go bunker down for a while to work on it. The problem I've had with these types is they always take too much and make very bad estimates on how long they will take. Eventually the rest of the team is twiddling their thumbs waitng for the maverick to finish their bit, or getting shot down when they try to help.


#20 Dmytry   Members   -  Reputation: 1148

Posted 20 February 2009 - 11:56 AM

Quote:
Original post by owl

You're assuming that you'll always be given the best team you can possibly work with. And you're already portraying a bad apple attitude towards a problem.

Usually in a team, tasks will be divided. If you're brilliant enough you can identify the tasks that are having problems and you'll be there to give "support", not to overshadow people with your brilliance.

ha. Ha. Think a little about what you're proposing, to assume a priori that some team member X is significantly inferior to you at problem Y so he will have problems and you must come help. Way to go mister brilliant.

I just sit here do my part of job the best I can and answer questions from rest of team the best I can, with reasonably good manners so I'm not insulting anyone. (If rest of team has problems with it or are demoralized by that, they're going nowhere)

And heaven forbids I start guessing at other team member's competence and pre-guessing when they're having problems and offering support (like you suggest). That leads to total failure of morale, to being called (behind back) smartass and asshole etc.(no matter how nice you are. People see you're guessing at their competence, and everyone *hates* that.)

edit: also if i want to be maverick i do my own project. If you truly believe rest of team is useless or that you can do it all alone, you need to simply change job.
edit: btw. I did experimental mavericking on my prev job for a week or two (on management request), to figure out how much time it'd take to single handedly recover a startup (we had 2 programmers left at that moment, me and other guy who's still mavericking as far as i know), and did quit. Having management that thinks you're superhuman (merely because most other employees sucked badly, were fired/did quit, and you're the last hope) is tad annoying.

[Edited by - Dmytry on February 21, 2009 7:56:11 AM]




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