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From my years in HR and my experience coaching executive leaders from a variety of categories, I can tell you that the issue of having a “toxic employee” is wide ranging and far reaching.

What is a toxic employee? My definition would be someone who is unhappy with their job, their organization, and won’t be convinced otherwise. These team members are the people who can bring everyone else down around them, effecting not on the workplace culture, but also the work itself.

So the question is, what to do? Some managers believe you should just fire these employees at the first sign of toxic behavior. Others feel that working through their issues and making attempt after attempt to find solutions to their problems sends a good, positive message to the rest of the organization, and could bring resolution to the situation.

Both are valid approaches. But now, thanks to a Harvard Business School study, we may have some definitive numbers that suggest the best course of action with toxic employees.

Per this Inc. article on the study, toxic employees can cost a company millions. Specifically:

  • Employees subjected to incivility in the workplace experience “markedly loosened bonds with their work life”
  • Nearly half of employees “decreased [their] work effort” and intentionally spent less time at work
  • 38 percent “intentionally decreased” the quality of their work
  • 25 percent of employees who had been treated with incivility admitted to taking their frustrations out on customers
  • 12 percent left their jobs due to uncivil treatment
  • 80 percent of employees lost work time worrying about the offending employee’s rudeness
  • 78 percent said their commitment to the organization declined in the face of toxic behavior
  • 66 percent said their performance declined
  • 63 percent lost worktime in avoiding the offender

So there you have it – not only does the toxic employee decrease the bottom line, but they make a direct negative impact on how other employees do and feel about their jobs.

The study and article definitely suggest that removing a toxic employee is a logical course of action. In fact, they go as far as putting a number to it: $12,500 in cost savings.

I recommend you dig deeper into the Inc. article. It breaks down the 6 primary kinds of toxic employee, plus give advice on how to mitigate damage when firing a toxic employee.