“Toxic” employees create stressed co-workers, with over half more likely to quit

Toxic employees can make over half of co-workers more likely to quit finds reportMembers of staff who have a negative influence on those around them, and create a poisonous atmosphere in the office, do not affect the overall productivity of their colleagues, but are more likely to make them want to leave. “Toxic employees” make their teammates 54 percent more likely to quit and cost employers up to three times more in hiring fees, finds “Toxic Employees in the Workplace” a new US-based report by Cornerstone. The indirect costs of toxic employees, as measured by the toll they take on co-workers, can have a far greater overall impact and create an even larger financial burden on the business than the direct costs of an employee’s misbehaviour. While these individuals have a negligible effect on the performance of their co-workers, the research suggests they have a stronger influence on stress and burnout than on day-to-day task completion.

Based on a dataset of approximately 63,000 hired employees spanning approximately 250,000 observations, talent management software provider Cornerstone conducted the research by identifying those who were terminated for reasons related to “toxic behaviour,” including misconduct, workplace violence, drug or alcohol abuse, sexual harassment, falsification of documents, fraud and other violations of company policy. Across the sample, 3 to 5 percent of all employees met the criteria for being terminated due to toxic behaviour.

“This report set out to answer two questions. The first is whether it is possible to identify the factors that make someone likely to engage in toxic behaviour, and the second being whether we can quantify the impact that toxic employees have on their coworkers,” said Michael Housman, chief analytics officer at Cornerstone OnDemand.

Using data from hiring assessments, the report found that certain types of responses were indicative of toxic behaviour. For example, employees who considered themselves “rule followers” are 33 percent more likely to be toxic employees. Applicants who were notably overconfident about their technical proficiencies for a job were 43 percent more likely to engage in toxic behaviour.

Perhaps most worryingly for employers, toxic behaviour is contagious and can spread from co-worker to co-worker at faster rates for larger teams. And the problem affects not only large employers but also honest, hardworking co-workers who are subjected to their disruptive behaviour warns the report, which can be downloaded here.