Jeff Atwood has a topic going on Bad Apples in teams. This has caused me to have a bit of think about what this means for me. Without going into too much detail, I’ve been find myself rather critical of work done by people in other parts of the organisation I work for. Now, this isn’t new, I’ve been here before, and then, as now, I’ve asked myself the question: “Am I seeing this in the right light ?” In other words, what am I missing ?

It’s all too easy to knock things down and say that “X is crap”, it is harder to say why, but you can generally always find a reason if you look hard enough, and that’s not always a good reason.

In essence I’ve seen myself do a couple of the things that are talked about, namely wanting to review old decisions, redo things, and generally not wanting to get involved in some of the “group activities”.

So here is the thing, “When are you a Bad Apple, and when are you just in the wrong place ?” The way I see this, is that sometimes you can be the lone voice of reason but be out of place, history has told us that some people with the most singular viewpoints have succeeded. Consider Strauss and the Golden Gate Bridge, Brunel and the Great Western Railway. But other times, you can be the lone voice of lunacy.

Part of being a professional is to do bear up to your responsibilities and be able to work with others. This doesn’t mean having to be “buddies” with everyone. In fact I would say being able to work closely with people who you do not get on with is a mark of professionalism.

Another part is to be rational, the work is the work, it is not the person. In this way can you rationalise your decisions and viewpoints, or are they extensions of personal beliefs held only on prejudice or subjective grounds ? I can say I prefer a particular system to another because “it feels right”, but that is not a rational argument for or against it. Should the decision be democratic ? Well, in a corporate structure; no. In a flat structure… maybe, but ultimately it’s the customer’s decision, and this is exercised by their choice of your system and in some cases the mandate of method.

Of course in the current workplace, a non-confrontational outcome is desired, but this seems to be at the expense of accountability. If you have the responsibility to decide, then you should. As a professional you should listen to rational argument, but equally you need to be able to live up to a rational decision made by someone else, even if it rankles with you.

So in writing this I would say a bad apple is someone who fails in their professional responsibility in this regard, but I would also say that it is possible to be in a “rotten orchard” due to an overall corporate malfeasance in regard of professionalism.