Beware of those toxic co-workers

first_img The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news. They bad-mouth you to work colleagues behind your back; they angrily demand the impossible from everyone but themselves; they make unwanted comments about your attire.At some point in our careers, most of us have come across someone known as a “toxic worker,” a colleague or boss whose abrasive style or devious actions can make the workday utterly miserable. Such people hurt morale, stoke conflict in the office, and harm a company’s reputation.But toxic workers aren’t just annoying or unpleasant to be around; they cost firms significantly more money than most of them even realize. According to a new Harvard Business School (HBS) paper, toxic workers are so damaging to the bottom line that avoiding them or rooting them out delivers twice the value to a company that hiring a superstar performer does.While a top 1 percent worker might return $5,303 in cost savings to a company through increased output, avoiding a toxic hire will net an estimated $12,489, the study said. That figure does not include savings from sidestepping litigation, regulatory penalties, or decreased productivity as a result of low morale.“I wanted to look at workers who are harmful to an organization either by damaging the property of the company — theft, stealing, fraud — or other people within the company through bullying, workplace violence, or sexual harassment,” said Dylan Minor. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff PhotographerDespite their seeming ubiquity, quantifying bad apples is an understudied area.“Most of the work in organization design and human resource management has been focused on what I would say are ‘positive outliers’ — the really top performers,” or star talent, said economist Dylan Minor, a visiting assistant professor of business administration at HBS and the paper’s co-author. “[As] it turns out, we’ve all had personal experiences where we have a worker on the other side of the distribution [who], rather than really helping performance, actually hurt performance in one way or another.”Looking at the existing academic literature on negative performance, Minor said it soon became clear how little is known about who these workers are, where they come from, how productive they are, or what effect they have on organizations and other employees. And because of privacy restrictions, much of that research is based on laboratory results, not real life.The term “toxic” is meant to convey both a person’s ability to cause harm and their propensity to infect others with their bad attitude, said Minor, who is here from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern.“I wanted to look at workers who are harmful to an organization either by damaging the property of the company — theft, stealing, fraud — or other people within the company through bullying, workplace violence, or sexual harassment,” he said. “The other reason I chose the term ‘toxic’ is that, as I find in the empirical study, it also tends to spill over — that if you are exposed to these toxic workers, then you become more likely to ultimately be terminated … later on.”Analyzing rarely available employment data on nearly 60,000 workers across 11 companies, the study focused on only the most egregious kinds of toxic behavior: conduct that resulted in a worker’s termination.The data suggests that toxic people drive other employees to leave an organization faster and more frequently, which generates huge turnover and training costs, and they diminish the productivity of everyone around them.Although not part of the study, Minor said client customer surveys indicate that toxic workers “absolutely” tend to damage a firm’s customer service reputation, which has a long-term financial impact that can be difficult to quantify, he said.Who is most likely to be a toxic worker? The research shows three key predictors. First, whether a person has a very high level of “self-regard” or selfishness. Because if such people don’t care about others, they’re not going to worry about how their behavior or attitude affects co-workers.Second, feeling overconfident, which can lead to undue risk-taking. “Imagine you’re going to engage in some misconduct and steal something from your company. If you think the chance that you’re going to get away with it is much greater than it really is, … you’re more likely to engage in that conduct,” said Minor.And lastly, if a person states emphatically that the rules should always be followed no matter what, watch out. “That is kind of counterintuitive. In a simple world, we would just ask someone, ‘Do you always follow the rules?’ And if you do, then of course, you’re not going to ever break them. But I find very strong evidence in my study that those that say ‘Oh no, you should always follow the rules’ — versus those that say ‘Sometimes you have to break the rules to do a good job’ — that the people who say ‘I never break the rules’ are much more likely to be terminated for breaking the rules,” said Minor.Getting rid of toxic workers is often difficult because they’re also more likely to be high performers, or to be perceived as such, which can blunt or blind supervisors to the true depth of their impact on the workplace.“A natural question I get from people is ‘Why would anyone have a toxic worker? That’s crazy!’” said Minor. “But then you realize they’re incredibly productive. And so, it makes sense then that maybe managers would look the other way because they’re really hitting all their productivity numbers.”Rooting out toxic workers not only stops the immediate harm they’ve been causing, but acts as a deterrent for others tempted to go down the same path. “Literally, the worst thing to do is to not do anything, which happens a lot, unfortunately,” Minor said.Hiring decisions that only consider an applicant’s potential upside, or prioritize it over other traits and skills, open the door to toxic workers, said Minor.“Most managers, if you ask them, ‘Do you want to have someone who cares more about others?’ They’d say, ‘Of course, I want that.’ But at the end of the day, most of them aren’t hiring much based on that.”By considering someone’s potential toxicity as well as their productivity, managers might hire employees who don’t look like world-beaters on paper, but will, in the end, bring more value to an organization.Managers and human resource staffers should take a more holistic, multidimensional hiring approach, one that values productivity and corporate citizenship, said Minor, for as the study makes clear, having good people working for you who care about others, and keeping the bad ones out, is not just a nice thing to do, it’s good for business.last_img read more

Human Rights Group Publishes Legal Justification For Bush, CIA Torture Probe

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York [dropcap]A[/dropcap] substantial amount of compelling evidence exists to justify a new investigation into former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and more than a dozen other administration officials connected to the CIA’s once secretive torture program, according to a scathing report just published by nonprofit Human Rights Watch.The non-governmental global human rights organization released a 154-page report this week dubbed “No More Excuses,” in which it criticizes the United States government for its failure to hold accountable the CIA’s post-Sept. 11th torture masterminds—those who authorized controversial interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and rectal feeding, as well as the utilization of “Black Sites” across the globe, where these tactics were implemented—an oversight that sullies the country’s reputation and weakens its authority abroad, the report argues. Failure to punish the architects of the torture program, Human Rights Watch warns, leaves the door open to future abuses by US officials.Human Rights Watch also called on governments of other nations to investigate the “egregious abuse of prisoners” condoned by Bush administration officials and the CIA.“The US government has not adequately accounted for these abuses,” the report states. “It has an obligation under international law to prosecute torture where warranted and provide redress to victims, but it has done neither. No one with real responsibility for these crimes has been held accountable, and the government has actively thwarted attempts on the part of victims to obtain redress and compensation in US courts.”The authors of the Human Rights Watch study rely on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “torture report,” the rights organization’s own reporting, and other published material to support their conclusion.“No More Excuses,” which also includes years of research on the once-covert CIA torture program and interviews with five former detainees, examines the Bush administration’s justification for what the White House referred to as “enhanced interrogation,” the actual techniques used on detainees, and how such practices are, in the report’s view, illegal. Officially there were 119 known CIA detainees, 26 of whom were considered “wrongly held.”The report calls on US Attorney Loretta Lynch, with President Obama’s backing, to appoint a special prosecutor to initiate a federal probe that would rely on interviews with current and former detainees.“We’re saying that there is enormous amount of information now in the public record…that one, there was enormous amount of conduct that went beyond what was authorized, and the Justice Department should take a fresh look at that evidence, which includes what is in the Senate torture report and what also has been released since then, and talk to detainees,” Laura Pitter, senior national security co-counsel for Human Rights Watch, and the author of the report, tells the Press. “There are plenty who are out of US custody…There’s no reason why those investigations shouldn’t be pursued.” Leslie Haskell, former counsel in the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, also contributed to the report.The report’s most audacious recommendation calls for an in-depth Department of Justice review of torture under the Bush administration—and it points to specific criminal violations the architects and others involved should face: torture, assault, sexual abuse, war crimes and conspiracy to commit such crimes.The organization argues that the CIA’s torture program is in direct violation of the Convention Against Torture, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1984 and signed by the United States on April 18, 1988, under President Ronald Reagan.“By giving its advice and consent to ratification of this Convention, the Senate of the United States will demonstrate unequivocally our desire to bring an end to the abhorrent practice of torture,” Reagan said in a letter to the US Senate in May 1988. The torture statute was ratified by Congress in 1994.The report names President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former CIA Director George Tenent, then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and about a dozen others involved in the torture program.Human Rights Watch’s insistence for renewed investigations comes almost a year to the day that the CIA’s detention and torture program was admonished in a long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report that relied on 6.3 million CIA records. Members of the committee spent five years investigating the program, and concluded that it was ineffective, deeply flawed and “far more brutal” than the government previously disclosed to the American public and lawmakers. To the disappointment of Human Rights Watch and other transparency advocates, the so-called torture report only contains a summary of the committee’s findings. Its most controversial assessment, that torture did not in any way produce “imminent threat intelligence,” discredited the Bush administration’s premise that the program was an effective intelligence-gathering tool.“Failure on the part of the US to abide by its obligations to prosecute torture,” says Pitter, “undermines the ability to advocate against torture around the world and it gives other countries a readied excuse to ignore their legal obligations as well.”In the spirit of transparency, Human Rights Watch also recommended that President Obama declassify the entire Senate Intelligence committee report to “ensure there is a full public accounting of government wrongdoing and that victims of torture can obtain redress.”“This is one of the most serious human rights violations that the US has engaged in as a country—the state sanctioned program of torture that was operated globally,” says HRW’s Pitter. “It’s important that the country and the people understand how it happened and what happened exactly.”When previously pressed on initiating probes into the CIA’s terror program, the Obama administration has often evoked the so-called “Durham Investigation,” which Pitter criticized as flawed.“That investigation never looked at the authorization of the program itself as part of any criminal conduct,” she says. “It only looked at conduct that went beyond what was authorized.”Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation began in 2008 but was limited to only examining the destruction of interrogation videotapes by the CIA. In 2009, then-Attorney General Eric Holder instructed Durham to investigate whether any federal laws were broken in connection with the interrogation program, but Holder noted the “Department would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees,” according to an August 2012 DOJ press release.When the Senate torture report was released, several human rights organizations called for those authorizing the program to be prosecuted. HRW and the American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter to Holder urging him to conduct a full investigation into the matter. The joint letter acknowledged that Holder’s office had previously reviewed the program, but noted that the torture report would provide investigators with relevant information previously unavailable to them.The Germany-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights went a step further and filed a criminal complaint against the torture program’s perpetrators and accused several Bush administration officials of war crimes.Joining the chorus of those condemning the practice was The New York Times, which shortly after the report was released, published an editorial titled: “Prosecute Tortures and their Bosses.”“I think time is running out” to fully investigate the program, Pitter laments. “Obama only has a year in office, he shouldn’t want this to become part of his legacy—a legacy that leaves torture open as a policy option.“We’ve seen presidential candidates today defending those prior practices and talking about using them again,” she adds. “If Obama doesn’t draw a clear line of criminality across what happened, he basically leaves that door open and that’s a very dangerous precedent to set.”last_img read more

Stressed men drawn to heavy women

first_imgHealthLifestyleRelationships Stressed men drawn to heavy women by: – August 9, 2012 86 Views   no discussions Sharing is caring! Tweet Do men seek the comfort of a “motherly” figure when put under pressure?When placed under stressful situations, men rate larger women as more attractive, new research has shown. British researchers found that men exposed to tasks that were designed to put them under pressure preferred a wider range of female body sizes.They conclude that stress can act to alter judgments of potential partners. The work by a team from London and Newcastle is published in the open access journal Plos One. “There’s a lot of literature suggesting that our BMI (body mass index) preferences are hard-wired, but that’s probably not true,” co-author Dr Martin Tovee, from Newcastle University, told BBC News.Dr Tovee and his colleague, Dr Viren Swami, have previously researched what factors could alter BMI preferences, including publishing a paper in the British Journal of Psychology on the effect of hunger, and the influence of the media. But through this new work they aimed to investigate whether known cross-cultural differences in body size preferences linked to stress were also mirrored in short-term stressful situations. “If you look at environments where food is scarce, people’s preferences for body size in a potential partner are shifted. [The preference] appears to be much heavier compared to environments where there’s plenty of food and a much more relaxed atmosphere,” he explained.“If you’re living a far more stressful, subsistence lifestyle, you’re going to have higher stress levels.”To simulate heightened stress, a test group of men were placed in interview and public speaking scenarios and their BMI preferences compared against a control group of non-stressed men. The results indicated that the change in “environmental conditions” led to a shift of weight preference towards heavier women with the men considering a wider range of body sizes attractive.Flexible preferences“These changes are comparatively minor in comparison to those you get between different [cross-cultural] environments. But they suggest certain factors which might combine with others and cause this shift,” Dr Tovee said. The research supports other work that has shown perceptions of physical attractiveness alter with levels of economic and physiological stress linked to lifestyle. “If you follow people moving from low-resource areas to higher resource-areas, you find their preferences shift over the course of about 18 months. In evolutionary psychology terms, you try to fit your preferences to what works best in a particular environment,” said Dr Tovee.Moreover, the researchers were keen to emphasise how fluctuating environmental conditions could alter the popular perception of an “ideal” body size.“There’s a continual pushing down of the ideal, but this preference is flexible. Changing the media, changing your lifestyle, all these things can change what you think is the ideal body size,” he said. BBC Newscenter_img Share Share Sharelast_img read more