Much has been written about the negative impact caustic employees have on a company. But a new report from Harvard Business School is the first attempt to assign a cost to it.

The report’s authors explored a dataset of 60,000 workers across 11 different companies to document the various aspects of workers’ characteristics and circumstances that lead them to engage in “toxic” behavior in the workplace.

According to Mark McGraw’s HRE article on the report, the top one percent worker may return $5,303 in annual cost savings to a company through increased output, but avoiding hiring a "toxic" employee will save an estimated $12,489.

There are a few key predictors of which employees are more likely to be toxic. How can managers and HR leaders spot those who may turn out to be poisonous influences within the workforce, and be more likely to engage in dishonest or disruptive behavior?

  • They tend to show very high levels of self-regard or selfishness and overconfidence.
  • They are likely to have poor customer-service skills and that applies to their interactions with co-workers as well.
  • They are self-professed rule followers.
  • They are generally very productive (the ones who aren’t either don’t get hired or quickly get fired).
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