As reported by ABC News, Harvard Business School has published the new Working Paper Toxic Workers, looking at workers who are harmful to organisational performance.
The study explored a large novel dataset of over 50,000 workers across 11 different organisations to identify the various characteristics and circumstances that lead workers to engage in what the authors call “toxic” behavior. The study also explores the relationship between toxicity and productivity.
From their analysis, the study authors conclude that “it seems clear that toxic workers originate both as a function of preexisting characteristics and of the environment in which they work.” Further, they “found consistent evidence that those who seem overconfident in their abilities, who are self-regarding, and who claim rules should be followed, are more likely to become toxic workers and break company and legal rules.”
They also found that toxic workers are more productive, which may explain why toxic workers are selected in the first place and are then able to persist in organisations for long periods.
The study authors conclude with this advice for human resources (HR) management:
…we find that avoiding a toxic worker (or converting him to an average worker) enhances performance to a much greater extent than replacing an average worker with a superstar worker.