- A new paper from the Harvard Business School reveals “what may be the world’s most detailed” profile of a toxic worker, the Washington Post reported. Researchers Michael Housman and Dylan Minor used data from 50,000 employees at 11 companies gathered from workplace fitness assessments for job applicants.
- The results aren’t quite what one would expect, the Post notes. Toxic workers are usually insanely productive, but with a rather high “self-regard” score, counts of overconfidence and a supposedly strong adherence to the rules. Despite their productivity, avoiding a toxic worker actually saves more money in the long run ($12,489) than hiring a superstar ($5,303).
- All workers in the study were hourly, front-line service positions, meaning the researchers also had access to the employee’s daily performance data, hiring data and termination data, if applicable.
Perhaps most confusing part of the study may be why such productive workers can also be considered toxic – but it also explains why such workers may last in an organization despite their “questionable” ethics, the researchers say. The trade-off with these workers is that they may be corrupt, even stepping over legal bounds in some cases.
Interestingly (and somewhat paradoxically in this case), those who seem dead-set on following rules were the most likely to be fired for breaking them. A lot of that $12,489 saved doesn’t even account for issues like potential litigation, regulatory penalties or reduced morale from such toxic workers.
Additionally, toxic employees had lower scores of “other-regardingness,” something the researchers teased out from data from the job screening program and questions that make applicants choose between two statements: "I like to ask about other people's well-being" or "I let the past stay in the past." Selecting the first would give them a higher other-regarding score, the Post reported.