How to Avoid Hiring Toxic Employees
(Or Being One Yourself!) 

If you’ve worked more than a few minutes, then you’ve probably either observed or had to deal with a toxic co-worker. You know the type:
  • the glass is always half empty
  • the world is out to get her
  • he can’t stop gossiping
  • the complainers
We all know these types of personalities wreak havoc on organizational culture and productivity.
However, it’s interesting to see this impact quantified.
According to research from the Harvard Business Review, “a superstar, defined as the top 1% of workers in terms of productivity, adds about $5,000 per year to company profit, while a toxic worker costs about $12,000 per year.”
When I was a hiring manager, I was fortunate to be able to surround myself with positive, can-do people that made my team and  organization better.
I had interview questions I asked that helped ferret out toxic, negative people.
But my go-to method for determining whether a candidate was toxic was how they treated the support staff they interacted with.


I have found that job candidates who treat the folks they interact with poorly (before they get to me) are very likely to be toxic. These candidates are often people who think that  they are somehow superior to others by virtue of the job they’re seeking to get.
These candidates  don’t understand that all human beings are worthy of respect. Having a fancy title won’t make them a better person; nor will it demonstrate top-flight character. Character is about what you do/say to the people you think aren’t important. Toxic people often demonstrate their lack of character when they think no one is watching – – -evidence the many “Karens” who’ve been revealed to the world over the past several months.
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Continue reading below for the article.

By Christine Porath /

Nothing is more costly to an organization’s culture than a toxic employee. Research shows that rudeness is like the common cold — it’s contagious, spreads quickly, and anyone can be a carrier.
Dylan Minor, a visiting assistant professor at Harvard Business School, and Michael Housman, chief analytics officer at Cornerstone OnDemand, studied just how costly toxic employees are using a large dataset of nearly 60,000 workers across 11 firms in various industries, including communications, consumer services, financial services, health care, insurance, and retail.
How does hiring a toxic employee compare to hiring a superstar? Minor and Housman found that one toxic employee wipes out the gains for more than two superstars. In fact, a superstar, defined as the top 1% of workers in terms of productivity, adds about $5,000 per year to the company’s profit, while a toxic worker costs about $12,000 per year. The real difference could even be greater if you factor in other potential costs, such as the spread of the toxicity, litigation fees, lower employee morale, and upset customers.
I’ve shown something similar in my research on civility at work: rude workers have a stronger effect on the organization than civil workers. That’s why it’s especially important to weed out toxic people before they join your organization. Here’s how:
Interview for Civility
Throughout the interview process, be on the lookout for signs of civility. Asking the candidate how she managed a particular situation in the past provides more valuable insight than hypothetical questions such as “How would you handle…” or “What would you do if…” Request examples of how their past behavior matches the values you’re looking for (which you also need to make explicit during the interview). Don’t just accept the first answer — ask for 2–3 examples.
It’s best to use structured interviewing, where you ask each candidate applying for the job the same questions in the same order. Research shows that these interviews are more predictive of candidate performance, even for jobs that are unstructured.
Consider using these interview questions:
  • What would your former employer say about you — positive and negative?
  • What would your former subordinates say about you — positive and negative?
  • What about yourself would you like to improve most? How about a second thing? A third?
  • Tell me about a time when you’ve had to deal with stress or conflict at work. What did you do?
  • What are some signals that you’re under too much stress?
  • When have you failed? Describe the circumstances and how you dealt with and learned from the experience.
  • What are some examples of your ability to manage and supervise others? When have you done this well?
  • What kind of people do you find it most difficult to work with?
  • Tell me about a time when you’ve found it difficult to work with someone. How did you handle it?
Also, observe these behaviors:
  • Did the candidate arrive promptly for the interview?
  • Does the candidate speak negatively of former employers or others?
  • Does the candidate take responsibility for behaviors, results, and outcomes, or do they blame others?

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