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March 25, 2010

Bad Apple: Case in Point

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post asking if one bad apple can spoil the bunch and I got a ton of responses. Some were stories of success others of disaster. But each had something we can learn from.

Today's post is a cautionary tale from Troubled in Anytown, US. She writes:


Hi Dana,

One bad apple can ruin it for all. My book club has been in existence for 14 years. We are open to the public and meet at the library. We went for years and years without any problems but then last year we were graced with a new member who we’ll call C.

C was disruptive, a bigot, highly religious and aggressive. She went for months unnoticed by the group because whomever she sat next to was the subject of her rants, yet she never was loud enough for the rest of us to catch on.

One night she sat next to me and called me a Nazi. She also mentioned that Obama was a terrorist and a host of other things. After several of us witnessed her behavior first-hand, the group told her that her behavior would not be tolerated and asked her to leave. This was a mistake because she stalked us for 5 months or so. Eventually, it ended with a near, physical confrontation and the help of the Sheriff's Dept after she showed up at someone's house.

Although she sometimes still lurks in the parking lot, she doesn't make herself known. But sadly, our group fell apart after that experience. Some didn't agree with how she was handled, others felt that we put up with her too long. Some of us tried to start a second group but the dynamics were all wrong.

I think where we went wrong, was not having guidelines on how to handle situations like these. If we had had something to go to, perhaps we could have nipped the issue in the bud but we struggled for so long before anyone acted.

Anyway, such a long comment but your post struck a chord with me. Our group is technically still in existence but all the core members have left and last month, our moderator didn't even show up. So sad.

-- Troubled, Anytown, US.

Alas, I don't know if there is one right solution for a situation like Troubled found herself in, but maybe we, as a community, can pull together some guidelines to help.

As I suggested in the earlier post, perhaps a blanket comment directed at the entire group, such as "We need to make a point of avoiding personal attacks" or "Let's keep politics out of the discussion from here on out" or something along those lines might have been helpful. Perhaps then if C was reminded each time she spoke that she was breaking a rule she might have gotten frustrated and moved on. (Of course in this case C sounds a bit more like a crazy apple than a just plain bad apple, so who knows).


Do you have any suggestions for handling a bad apple? Please feel free to post them here, or email me at
dana@bookreporter.com. Your book club compatriots need you!

-- Dana Barrett, Contributing Editor