One underperforming team member can drag down the performance of the entire team, according to research.
The notion of ‘one bad apple spoiling the barrel’ was tested in research by Benjamin Walker from the University of New South Wales.
The study found the conscientiousness and level of dedication of the least productive team member set the performance standard for the entire group. The results were determined by taking 158 students and dividing them into 33 teams.
“We found that a single lazy person – someone low in proactivity – drags the team down, reducing its satisfaction and performance,” said Walker.
Previous research has examined the average level of particular personality traits within teams. However, this research showed that just a single member low in a particular personality trait can reduce performance and satisfaction.
Impulsiveness was seen as another potential negative personality trait, but the research found a single impulsive team member did not reduce the overall satisfaction and performance in a team.
“It was previously thought that the average level of a personality trait in a team defined its success,” Walker said.
“These findings show the person who contributes the least has a huge impact. Even if on average the rest of the team is pulling their weight, they won’t be able to compensate for that member and they won’t be happy about it.”