What do Ethylene and Firing Your Top Producer Have in Common?

A couple of weeks ago our leadership team had to make a really simple decision, ask our top producer to move on. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “One bad apple can spoil the bunch,” but does it actually happen with fruit?

Yes. As they ripen, they produce a gaseous hormone called ethylene, which is a ripening agent. Given the right conditions and enough time, one apple can push all the fruit around it to ripen — and eventually rot.

Negative people can have the same rotting impact to other team members. I’ve seen organizations slowly spoil because the leader didn’t have the courage to let go of the hot hand.

Even though the poisonous person emits negativity, cynicism, and selfishness, a shortsighted manager is often too concerned with their paycheck/top line revenue or fearful of what their boss will say. Interestingly enough, leaders that see the big picture and focus on organizational alignment to a healthy culture rarely have to worry about their paychecks.

It takes a good leader to define what values and behaviors will be reflected in the culture of the organization and then uphold and defend the standard. When someone gets out of line, it can cause your whole team to get out of alignment.

The most remarkable thing happens when the leader stands up for the team and lets go of the bad apple. The team pulls together even stronger and through some sort of serendipity, more culturally aligned people appear. It’s the leader’s responsibility to tend the basket, pluck out the spoiled apples, and protect the team.