This morning I conducted a workshop on the importance of defining and living a strong culture within your credit union. The basic premise of the presentation was that without a clearly defined culture that is regularly communicated and lived on a day-to-day basis, your credit union will never become a top performer.

During the course of the session I shared story about how one bad apple, i.e., an employee who is not living the culture of the credit union, can literally drag the entire organization down. I then asked the following question: How many of you can think of at least one person in your credit union who needs to be working somewhere else?

It’s a question that I have asked many times before, and yet for some reason the responses always surprise me. Once again today, virtually every hand in the room went up.

Think about that for a minute.

In a room filled with some 150 credit union leaders, almost every one of them knows that there is a bad apple working in their organization, and yet those people are still on the team. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

OK, I hear the alarm bells going off…the worries about legal actions if you fire someone without cause, the concern that you can’t let a long term employee go because it just wouldn’t be right, the undercurrents that make you think if you get rid of them then you will end up with someone worse, and many more.

But here is the reality. One person who is swimming in the opposite direction can disrupt and undermine the entire organization. Can you really tolerate that in the competitive world in which your credit union operates today?


1. Make an assessment of why the bad apple is a bad apple. Do they lack the necessary skills to do the job they have? Are they in need of training to help them do their job better? Or has the credit union changed and they simply don’t fit anymore.

2. Share your assessment with the bad apple. Let them help you identify what is going on that makes them push against the organization and create a plan to get them back on track. Face up to the reality that there is a problem and try to solve it, but give it a timeline and make it clear that if it is not corrected you will no longer have a place for them in your credit union.

3. Consider helping them find a placement that better fits their knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Maybe they are a good fit for a peer credit union in your area, or maybe their talents would be better utilized in another industry. Coach them and help them see the opportunities that exist and support their efforts to find a place where they can become a valued employee.

Remember, the goal here is to build your team and make your credit union stronger. If you have a bad apple that is threatening to spoil the bunch, you have to either turn it into a good apple or throw it out. It may seem harsh, but your team will never achieve its full potential until you fix the problem that they all recognize and want to see addressed.
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