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Toxic Workers

Author

Listed:
  • Michael Housman

    () (Cornerstone OnDemand)

  • Dylan Minor

    () (Harvard Business School, Strategy Unit)

Abstract

While there has been a strong focus in past research on discovering and developing top performers in the workplace, less attention has been paid to the question of how to manage those workers on the opposite side of the spectrum: those who are harmful to organizational performance. In extreme cases, aside from hurting performance, such workers can generate enormous regulatory and legal fees and liabilities for the .rm. We explore a large novel dataset of over 50,000 workers across 11 different firms to document a variety of aspects of workers' characteristics and circumstances that lead them to engage in what we call "toxic" behavior. We also explore the relationship between toxicity and productivity, and the ripple effect that a toxic worker has on her peers. Finally, we find that avoiding a toxic worker (or converting him to an average worker) enhances performance to a much greater extent than replacing an average worker with a superstar worker.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Housman & Dylan Minor, 2015. "Toxic Workers," Harvard Business School Working Papers 16-057, Harvard Business School, revised Nov 2015.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:16-057
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    12. Mayer, David M. & Kuenzi, Maribeth & Greenbaum, Rebecca & Bardes, Mary & Salvador, Rommel (Bombie), 2009. "How low does ethical leadership flow? Test of a trickle-down model," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 108(1), pages 1-13, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Housman & Dylan Minor, 2016. "Workplace Design: The Good, the Bad, and the Productive," Harvard Business School Working Papers 16-147, Harvard Business School.
    2. Dylan Minor, 2016. "Executive Compensation and Environmental Harm," Harvard Business School Working Papers 16-076, Harvard Business School, revised Apr 2016.
    3. Dylan Minor, 2016. "Risk Preferences and Misconduct: Evidence from Politicians," Harvard Business School Working Papers 16-073, Harvard Business School.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    strategic human resource management; misconduct; worker productivity; ethics; superstar;

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