Mizzou’s Law of the Bad Apple

No one likes a bad apple, whether it’s literally a bad piece of fruit or a person in your life—the metaphor.

A person who is a bad apple does not do well with others. They are usually all about themselves, or at the very best, just not about others.

In short, rotten attitudes ruin a team.

Attitudes have the power to lift up or tear down a team.

The winner’s edge is in the attitude, not the aptitude. Unfortunately, many people resist that notion. They want to believe that talent alone is enough. But there are plenty of talented teams out there who never amount to anything because of the attitudes of the players.

Great talent plus rotten attitudes equals a bad team. Great talent plus bad attitudes equals an average team. Great talent plus an average attitude equals a good team. Lastly, only great talent plus great attitude equals a great team.

An attitude compounds when exposed to others.

There are a lot of things on a team that are not contagious. Talent. Experience. Practice. But you can be sure of one thing: Attitude is catchy. When someone on the team is teachable, and his humility is rewarded by improvement, others are more likely to display similar characteristics. When a leader is upbeat in the face of discouraging circumstances, others admire that quality and want to be like that person. When a team member displays a strong work ethic and begins to have a positive impact, others imitate him or her. People become inspired by peers. People have a tendency to adopt the attitudes of those they spend time with, to pick up on their mind-sets, beliefs and approaches to challenges.

Bad attitudes compound faster than good ones.

There is only one thing more contagious than a good attitude—a bad attitude. For some reason, many people think it’s cool to be negative. They might think it makes them look smart or important. But, the truth is that a negative attitude hurts rather than helps. It also hurts those around them.


Attitudes are subjective. So, identifying a wrong one can be difficult.

Have you ever interacted with someone for the first time and suspected that his or her attitude was poor, yet you were unable to put your finger on exactly what was wrong? A lot of people have this kind of experience.

The reason people doubt their observations about others’ attributes is that attitudes are susceptive. Someone with a bad attitude might not do anything illegal or unethical. Yet, that person’s attitude may be ruining the team just the same.

Attitude is really about how a person feels. That overflows into how he or she acts. Here are seven common rotten attitudes that can ruin a team:

–       An inability to admit wrongdoing

–       Failure to forgive

–       Petty jealousy

–       Putting oneself before the team

–       A critical spirit

–       A desire to hog the credit

–       Negative talk about teammates and coaches

In a word, most bad attitudes are the result of selfishness. If a teammate puts others down, sabotages teamwork or thinks he is more important than the team, this is surely someone with a bad attitude.

Rotten attitudes, left alone, ruin everything.

Bad attitudes should never be left unaddressed. They will always cause dissension, resentment, combativeness and division of a team. And, they will never go away if they are left alone. They will fester and ruin a team along with its chances for reaching its potential.

If you leave a bad apple in a barrel of good apples, you will always end up with a barrel of rotten apples.