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Harvard Business School researchers come up with the personality profile of the nightmare worker

Ron Livingston in Twentieth Century Fox's
Ron Livingston in Twentieth Century Fox's "Office Space"
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When you think of a 'toxic' coworker, what comes to mind? Is it someone who is constantly in a sour mood or has a bad attitude? Maybe it's someone who doesn't work well in groups or who doesn't pull his or her own weight in work. But would you ever think that someone who does everything by the book could be considered toxic?

In a recent study from Harvard Business school, researchers may have finally identified some of the characteristics of this destructive character in the workplace.

Somewhat unexpectedly, that "toxic worker" may be someone who looks like a great employee on paper. The study found that people who are insanely productive, hold themselves in high regard to an almost selfish level, and are dead-set on following the rules to the letter are the ones to look out for.

The reason these individuals tend to ruin a work environment, according to the researchers, is that they cause workers to leave due to their behavior. This, in turn, costs companies more money than the toxic worker is likely worth.

Do you have a coworker like this? How would you deal with them?  Is it really worth leaving your job just to avoid working with 'toxic worker'?


Michael G. Housman, lead author of the Harvard Business School working paper looking at the personality profile of the “Toxic Workers,” which is also the title of the study. He is also a workforce scientist at hiQ, a San Francisco-based firm that uses data analysis to study the work place