Image: ABC. By Kellie Scott.
Your boss might love an over-achieving, confident, suck-up employee, but a new study has found they are the most toxic in the workplace — and they are costing businesses money.
Harvard Business School researchers have profiled toxic workers, analysing data from 50,000 employees at 11 companies.
The study found that toxic workers range from those who are simply annoying through to bullies.
There are four main traits identifying a toxic worker according to the findings — including high productivity.
“We find that toxic workers are much more productive than the average worker,” the authors wrote.
“With such a conceptualisation of overconfidence — believing that the probability of the better outcome is higher than one ought to believe — we can link overconfidence to the likelihood of engaging in misconduct,” the authors said.
“This might explain how a toxic worker can persist in an organisation.”
Finally, they are strict rule followers.
“It could also be the case that those who claim the rules should be followed are more Machiavellian in nature, purporting to embrace whatever rules, characteristics or beliefs that they believe are most likely to obtain them a job,” the authors wrote.
“There is strong evidence that Machiavellianism leads to deviant behaviour.”
And it is not just colleagues that suffer; businesses are paying big bucks for toxic employees.
“Even relatively modest levels of toxic behaviour can cause major organisational cost, including customer loss, loss of employee morale, increased turnover, and loss of legitimacy among important external stakeholders,” the authors wrote.