Nellaiappan’s Column-8: "Rotten Onion Concept"

One rotten onion can spoil an entire sack of onions. That’s why vendors when they store onions in bulk, carefully search for rotten onions or ‘about to go rotten’ onions, hand pick and separate them from the lot. Thereby the good onions are saved. Here is some thing for us to learn.

In every organization and institution a few such rotten onions always exist along with efficient and loyal lot. If allowed, they could spoil the entire team. The first step in team-building in my opinion is to identify such rotten onions and isolate them from the main stream.

Presence of rotten onions may be due to the climate prevailing inside the organization such as nepotism, lack of growth potential for the individuals, monotony of work, lack of role for individuals in decision making and so on.

We cannot fire them just like that for non-performance. Mending or sending comes only after isolating and putting them in less important or less sensitive area. On the pretext of humanitarian considerations, one need not tolerate disobedience or poor performance. It is contagious.

But there is a major difference between rotten onions and the troublesome people. Most of the members can be mended and made efficient whereas the rotten onions cannot.

I should tell you how I handled a trouble maker in one of my earlier assignments. There the trouble was in the form of a senior operator. He was very talkative and that was the problem. He was one among the ten in the synthetic section of that chemical manufacturing unit. Moreover they were coming in shifts.

As the production was done in batches, the work distribution was not uniform throughout the shift. The work was not continuous for all the 8 hours and different for all the ten at any given point of time.

Our operator was good in mimicry and mono acting and used to start some thing interesting during the shift in a loud voice which made all the workmen to surround him and it invariably ended with some quarrel among them. Ultimately it resulted in loss of productivity.

When I became the synthetic section in-charge the first thing I did was transferring him to extraction section where he has to work alone. He was protesting it at the beginning but there was no option for him.

Slowly he settled in his new work and to everybody’s surprise, he started suggesting modifications in material handling and operational simplification because of his creativeness and loneliness. He became one of our best operators and I recommended a promotion for him. That made us to search for untapped potential within the company.

Every successful Business Corporate injects new blood into their organization to sustain speed and growth. There the reverse of the rotten onion concept has to be applied. Protecting the new young ones from the clutches of the existing old timers is the issue there.

After going through this article my wife said, “Now I understand why they have given you a cabin in your office. I think your management is already aware of this rotten onion concept.”

2 Responses to “Nellaiappan’s Column-8: "Rotten Onion Concept"”

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