Is Your Workplace Toxic? 57 Separate Studies Say Blame Bad Bosses



We’ve all worked for at least one bad boss. They were lazy. Arrogant. Boorish. Outstanding examples of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. They would have failed miserably on Google’s key behaviors of great team managers questionnaire. 

Yet for some reason, no one in a position to do so did anything about it.

So we hung in there, and did our best, in spite of our boss.

According to a 2015 study published by Harvard Business School that analyzed data on approximately 60,000 workers, hiring a superstar — defined as a “top 1 percent” employee — will save the average company $5,303.

Yet avoiding a toxic employee — defined as “a worker that engages in behavior harmful to an organization, including either its property or people” — will save the average company $12,489. 

That figure doesn’t even include “savings from sidestepping litigation, regulatory penalties, or decreased productivity as a result of low morale.”

In short, it’s better to fire a toxic employee than it is to find and hire a superstar employee.

The same is true for leaders. According to a 2013 meta-analysis of 57 different studies published in Leadership Quarterlythe negative impact created by a bad boss outweighs the positive impact created by a good boss.

“Destructive leadership” significantly decreases employee job satisfaction. Employee dedication and commitment. Employee well-being. Employee turnover intention, yet another factor in the Great Resignation. Overall performance.

As the researchers write:

As expected, the highest correlation arises between destructive leadership and attitudes towards the leader.

Surprisingly, the next highest correlation was found between destructive leadership and counterproductive work behavior. 

Or in non researcher-speak, if my boss sucks I won’t just hate him. 

I’m also likely to start acting like him.

Bottom line? No matter how hard you try, consistently hiring great leaders is impossible. As Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen says, “If you are super-scrupulous about your hiring process, you’ll still have maybe a 70 percent success rate of a new person really working out — if you’re lucky.”

So by all means be thorough, thoughtful, and deliberate when you make hiring decisions. 

But be even more thorough, thoughtful, and deliberate about dealing with toxic bosses.

Because that will make a much bigger difference on how your employees feel about coming to work every day, and on how well they do their jobs.

Something you didn’t need science to tell you.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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