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Stat of the Week: Star Performer vs. Toxic Employee

Toby Graham /

Picture this: you’re about to make a crucial hire for your organization, and you’re down to 2 candidates.

The first candidate, Anna, was friendly, personable, and charismatic throughout her interview. She showed up on time, looked professional, and even cracked a few jokes (which landed). She displayed a high degree of familiarity with your company’s mission and audience, and would fit right in with your culture. The one drawback? Her skills and work experience are nothing spectacular. She would be a great person to work with, but probably wouldn’t exceed expectations.

The second candidate, Ben, is eminently qualified. He has spent 10 years in similar roles at comparable companies. He knows what he’s doing, and it shows—executive management is already considering a couple of the ideas he brought up during his interview. But Ben is clearly aware of this as well, and his arrogance shows. He arrived 25 minutes late, interrupted his interviewers constantly, and spoke rudely about his prior employers. Worst of all, he took off his shoes and placed his bare feet on the desk. He might be a superstar, but he’s also a super-jerk.

Which hire—Anna or Ben—is better for your company in the long-term? Thanks to researchers at the Harvard Business School, we now have an answer: hire Anna, and you’ll save approximately $12,000.

Quartz reports (emphasis added):

“It’s not a secret that pushy, aggressive, and inappropriate people in an office—also known as toxic employees—are a drain on both a company’s resources and its morale.

How much so? Behold the exact cost of a toxic employee, according to a Nov. 16 working paper from Harvard Business School. The paper, which took a close look at the organizational performance of over 50,000 employees at 11 companies, concluded that rooting out a toxic employee can save twice as much money as making a stellar new hire.”

Most of us already knew that Anna is the better candidate. Now you can prove it to your CFO.

For additional findings from the researchers, be sure to check out the entire paper. It confirms a couple things we’ve written about on this blog extensively: 1) toxic workers—even toxic superstars—aren’t worth keeping around, and 2) who and how you hire matters.

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