Is there a name for the process of removing a rotten fruit to save the others in the basket?

I want to use this in the context of team management, where the performance of one or more members affect others in the team, and I feel they have to be removed from the team.

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    The typical term (coming from a surgical context) is excise. You excise tumors, for example. It has connotations of surgical precision, and removing only the problematic parts. – Dan Bron Dec 21 '18 at 12:46
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    I would suggest winnow, or some synonym. Purge if you don't fear a bad connotation. – Hot Licks Dec 21 '18 at 12:54

cut the deadwood out

Figurative: to remove unproductive persons from employment. This company would be more profitable if management would cut out the deadwood. When we cut the deadwood out, all our departments will run more smoothly.

Or for a more acceptable euphamism (from @Mitch):

streamline, tighten up, optimize, remove redundancies

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    'Rationalize' is very broad and covers quite a few other situations and implications. There are a lot of words that one would use first in that direction: streamline, tighten up, optimize, remove redundancies, etc. – Mitch Dec 21 '18 at 13:47
  • @Mitch Quite true, I've just been watching "Yes Minister" and the word was on my mind. Not sure now if I should rewrite my answer or hope the OP sees your comment. – 011358 smell Dec 21 '18 at 14:36
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    Not quite the same thing: dead wood is (passively) useless; rotten fruit is (actively) destructive. – michael.hor257k Dec 21 '18 at 15:29
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    @michael.hor257k Maybe, but not necessarily relevant to the OP's question. Plus sometimes saving (actual) trees requires deadwood to be cut out, some experience in business indicates that this translates to there too. – 011358 smell Dec 21 '18 at 15:39

I am going to take a diversion from the letter of the question, because the context cannot be ignored here - if you plan to use this in the context of team management you should not use words with too-negative a connotation: this would simply instill unease in the people who are not the "rotten fruit".

And therein lies a problem: the use of "rotten fruit" when talking about your team. Team management techniques are of course outside the remits of this forum, but this leads me to the word I am getting at:


Pruning is the action of removing dead or overgrown branches from a plant (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/prune#h46946740871680, meaning 2). This provides a better mental image: the team is seen as a tree, growing upwards, the problem team members are removed due to a natural progression, and the same expression can be used with less negative connotations for the individuals if the team is pruned due to restructuring etc. Additionally, this expression is widely used in team management, so it will make immediate sense to upper management.

The above remains within the realm of fruits/plants; an alternative could be jettison (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/jettison), but pruning is, as I said, a better mental image.

  • ....but I must urge you to reconsider the idea of "rotten fruit" in your team: there are plenty of techniques to deal with problem team members. – microenzo Dec 21 '18 at 15:25

A standard phrase for the situation of having an underperformer is

One bad apple spoils the bunch [or bushel, barrel, basket, etc.]

So if you refer to "removing the bad apple", your intent will be immediately clear. (See also "a bad apple" at theFreeDictionary, and "bad apple" at Merriam-Webster.)

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