It doesn’t matter if you’re a boss, a worker or an owner, these people can ruin your workplace, life or company.

They come into your business and some people immediately start planning to leave because of them. They can destroy your company as well as morale.

Who are they?

They are toxic workers and there are various categories of them (See “Toxic Worker Types” list at the end of the article).

Now a major business school has finished a study measuring their effect.

“A toxic worker is deemed as a worker that engages in behavior that is harmful to an organization,” according to a Harvard Business School study, “Toxic Workers.”

“In extreme cases,” the study continued, “aside from hurting performance, such workers can generate enormous regulatory and legal fees and liabilities for the firm.”

A Big Threat

Toxic employees, according to another recent paper by Accountemps, are a big threat, And the threat, says management experts, increases the smaller the workplace.

“The more intimate the workplace, the faster the negative interpersonal issues can spread. Workplace conflicts and decreased office morale can disrupt productivity, alienate workers and have a catastrophic effect on your employee retention efforts,” according to the study “Small Company, Big Problem: How to Manage Toxic Employees.”

“They can cost a company a reputation. A toxic worker can not only cause harm, he or she can drag down others and hurt company productivity,” says Richard Deosingh, senior regional vice president of Accountemps, New York.

How to stop the problem?

What’s to Be Done?

Deosingh recommends that companies do yearly reviews of each worker. He says that businesses should have periodic career conversations with each employee. That’s because getting rid of the cancer in the workplace can be of paramount importance.

Indeed, the Harvard study contends that never hiring a toxic worker or getting rid of him or her is more important to a company’s bottom line than hiring the superstar.

The study compared the value of finding “superstars,” who are workers in the top 1% of productivity, versus the value of avoiding or getting rid of a toxic worker.

“Succeeding in the latter,” the study said, “generates returns of nearly two-to-one compared to those generated when firms hire a superstar. This suggests more broadly that “bad” workers may have a stronger effect on the firm than “good” workers.”

The study was written by economist Dylan Minor and Michael Housman, chief analytics officer at Cornerstone OnDemand. They reviewed some 60,000 workers across 11 firms, investigating the effects of the toxic worker.

Such a worker, the Harvard study said, can cost a firm “billions of dollars,”

Get Rid of Them! But How?

Why don’t companies just fire this kind of worker or not hire them?

The problem, the study says, is tricky. That’s because some toxic workers—although corrupt and unpleasant—can be very productive, at least for a time. They can seem to be superstars, boosting the company’s bottom line. This leads some executives to think that they should just put up with the toxic worker for the good of the company.

But the study warns that toxic workers, even if they sometimes appear to be superstars, aren’t worth it.


Their liabilities immediately hurt the firm.

“Specifically, when a toxic worker arrives, people start leaving the company because they don’t want to be around this toxic person,” Housman said in an interview with Human Resource Executive (HRE) Online. Housman added toxic worker cost was easy to measure.

“The cost turnover, which includes finding and training a new worker, is well tracked by the 11 companies we studied. These figures allowed us to estimate the annual cost of a toxic worker, just through increased turnover, as more than $12,000 a year.”

And there are all types of toxic workers. Whichever type you encounter; remember—-they can destroy your job or your workplace or possibly both.

Toxic Worker Types

Are any of these people in your workplace?

  • Gossipmongers: They spread fear by spouting often untrue hearsay
  • Big Bullies: Employees who repeatedly put down others by verbally humiliating them
  • Saboteurs Extraordinaires: These are people trying to gain an advantage by hurting fellow workers
  • Spotlight Stealers: They take credit for others work and hoard the limelight in team projects.

Source: Accountemps

Gregory Bresiger
Gregory Bresiger

Gregory Bresiger is an independent financial journalist from Queens, New York. His articles have appeared in publications such as Financial Planner Magazine and The New York Post. The eBook version of his latest book "MoneySense" is available now for Free Download by clicking HERE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.