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Avoiding Toxic Employees

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Avoiding Toxic Employees

You know the feeling when you’ve got a toxic employee. How it affects other employees and the culture of everyone around. But did you realize just how much it actually cost your bottom line? The cost of a bad hire is not something commonly seen on a business’s annual profit and loss report because it is often dismissed as an intangible impact.However, the impact from toxic employees is both tangible and a heavy drain on your business.

While superstar employees have been the favorite child of the corporate world, less focus has been placed on toxic employees and the true cost underlying a bad hire. A 2015 study of 63,000 hired employees spanning 250,000 observations concluded that hiring a single toxic employee into a team of 20 workers costs approximately $12,800, whereas hiring a non-toxic employee costs an employer an average of $4,000.

These costs have only risen.

Toxic employees take a huge toll on companies that make the mistake of hiring them; good employees are 54 percent more likely to quit when they work with a toxic employee. Like a common cold passed around the office, toxic behavior is contagious and often causes an entire team’s performance to drop significantly. Compared to the value of a superstar worker, avoiding a toxic employee can save the company more than twice as much when looking at the bottom line.

The question is then simple enough: How do we avoid hiring toxic employees?
We assume that you are using a predictive system like Insights Work (if you aren’t, what are you waiting for?) Once you are already leaning on the right information to help predict success, when looking to hire an employee, special attention must be made to the following two areas:

1. Ask the Right Questions

Asking questions about the candidate’s technical knowledge is important but asking behavioral questions (how they managed particular situations in the past) is more effective as it gives a better representation as to how they are likely to react in the workplace.

Considering a candidate’s expected behavior, in conjunction with their skillset and character, can provide a realistic preview at the hiring stage of an employee’s contribution to the company and allows an opportunity for toxic traits to be caught during the interview stage of the process.

A good rule of thumb is to encourage candidates to give at minimum two to three different examples, as the first answer they provide is often prepared in advance and cookie cutter. To truly probe what’s underneath, allow room for elaboration for each answer and guide them to behavioral outcomes to more accurately gauge their character, allowing for a more informed decision. Of note, systems like Insights Work provide you the tools to identify candidate issues with specific questions.

Examples of questions that allow for elaborative follow up may include:

• Have you ever encountered a situation where you had to handle difficult people at your job? What would you do if it got beyond your control?

• How would your former manager describe you? Would that differ from how your former subordinates or colleagues describe you?

• Have you ever experienced failure? How did you handle the circumstance? What did you learn from the experience?

• Describe a situation where you demonstrated superb leadership skills. What made this so excellent?

• Tell me about a time you disagreed with a decision your manager made. How did you handle it?

• What would you do if you overheard a co-worker saying negative remarks about another co-worker? What if you knew it to be untrue?

• What would you do if a co-worker was encouraging you to perform a task that wasn’t within the current process guidelines? What if they told you it was okay “because that’s what we always do”?

Focus on the candidate’s tone, body language, and response to each question when asked with the follow up question. This provides important insight into the behavioral response of the candidate and any evidence or clues of toxic behavior is worth probing further as the ramifications of toxic behavior, once in the company, is contagious and can spread from co-worker to co-worker.

2. Do your due diligence

Following the interview, it may be wise to gather feedback with every employee who encountered the candidate including administrative assistants or receptionists. Everyone’s perspective is different and unless you are an unbiasedrobot that can predict success at work, your decision will always be vulnerable to unfounded favoritism and ‘gut-feeling’(known as a ‘halo effect’).

Always check their credentials and qualifications with multiple references. It’s best practice to follow through with a call to identify underlying behavioral problems that may only be revealed through subtle cues such as the reference’s tone and pace, which would otherwise be missed when requesting a letter of reference.

Additionally, asking the right reference questions provides further insight to whether there would be potential conflicts and if they would be the right fit with your company’s values. Be sure to turn to your own network as well as this may provide hidden insight for your potential candidate and weed out those who aren’t the right fit.

At the end of the day,the business case of avoiding a toxic employee is irrefutable: the indirect costs of toxic employees are even more of a financial burden than the direct costs of their misbehavior. Toxic employees make their co-workers significantly more likely to leave and encourage good employees to engage in toxic behaviors, especially when working directly with a toxic employee.

Thankfully, the experts have been dodging bad hires with predictive systems like Insights Work. A bad hire can (and will) bring an entire work culture down if caught unprepared. With job applications surging now more than ever, it’s time to recognize the business case in removing ambiguity within the hiring process and harvest the science behind the success of avoiding bad hires.