Toxic employee or superstar: Who has a greater impact?


According to the Harvard Business Review, youre better off avoiding the poison than going for glory when hiring for your veterinary practice.

Shutterstock.comChances are that when your veterinary practice has an open position, you scour your applicants looking for that golden hire who will help your team soar to new heights of patient care and client service. And well you should-some researchers say workplace superstars can be four times as productive as other workers.

But if you misjudge and hire someone who turns out to be a toxic employee, other research indicates that the impact on your business can be much greater-for the worse. Bottom line? Avoiding toxic workers can save your practice more money than superstars would generate.

In a working paper for Harvard Business School, investigators Dylan Minor and Michael Housman looked at data from a number of employers and determined that about one in 20 workers was ultimately fired for toxic behavior (things like egregious policy violations, sexual harassment, workplace violence and fraud).

When they compared the cost of these toxic employees with the value of superstars, they found that avoiding a bad apple could save a company more than twice as much as hiring a top performer. “Specifically, avoiding a toxic worker was worth about $12,500 in turnover costs, but even the top 1 percent of superstar employees only added about $5,300 to the bottom line,” reads a write-up from the Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Also interesting is that certain behavioral traits seem to be associated with and predictive of toxic behavior. These are:

> Overconfidence and narcissism. No surprise there, really.

> Believing that rules should always be followed. This might seem surprising at first (aren't good employees the rule-followers?), but the researchers theorized that toxic workers might be telling employers what they want to hear. More realistic and honest employees acknowledge some gray areas.

> High performance levels. And here's the rub … toxic workers often seem to be superstars, which is why bosses are reluctant to fire them and they tend to persist in the workplace. Still, “although toxic workers may be faster than average employees, they don't necessarily produce higher quality work,” the HBR article reads.

So if you're hiring, watch out for signs of toxicity as vigilantly as you seek signs of stardom-if not more so. When it comes to your team, the medical directive of “First do no harm” may be the best hiring philosophy to follow.

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