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Another Reason Your Annoying Co-Worker Should Be Fired

It costs three times as much to hire toxic employees because they make co-workers significantly more likely to quit.

Research has just confirmed what most people already knew: The office antagonist ought to be fired. Jerks in the workplace bring morale down, cost a lot of money to deal with, and risk sending good employees running.

For a report published on Tuesday, talent management firm Cornerstone OnDemand analyzed a data set of 63,000 employees and singled out “toxic employees,” or people who were dismissed from their jobs because they harassed their co-workers, falsified documents, engaged in fraud, or were violent in the workplace. Not surprisingly, the firm found that toxic employees make people around them miserable. When the ratio of toxic employees rises by a one-in-20 ratio, co-workers become 54 percent more likely to quit their jobs, the firm found.

All that quitting can get pretty expensive. Because jerks make bystanders more likely to leave—which, in turn, pushes up replacement expenses—Cornerstone OnDemand estimates that, in a group of 20, it costs an average of $12,800 to bring on just one toxic employee. (That’s not including any lawsuits that might result from illegal behavior.) It costs roughly less than a third of that—$4,000—to hire someone who isn’t toxic.

Although toxic employees have a “fairly negligible effect” on the rest of their co-workers’ performance, the firm said, they were seen as creating “a caustic environment that has more long-term effects on employee stress, burnout, and peace of mind.” Nastiness also seems to be contagious. “Toxic employees have the potential to poison the entire well, and the cost estimates issued here should be considered conservative since they do not account for the spread of toxic behavior and its second-hand effects,” the firm said.

The obvious take-away is that companies shouldn’t bring on rule-breakers and misanthropes: It saves money—and keeps everyone happier—to skip hiring them in the first place. But sussing out problem employees isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. Some companies turned to personality tests to screen job applicants but scrapped them after finding them ineffective. And research has suggested that people are hard-wired to act selfishly at their jobs, although being selfish is quite different from harassing a co-worker.

Employees stuck with terrible coworkers might try a new strategy: print this article out, highlight the dollar figures, and strategically misplace it right on your boss’s desk.

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