The hidden cost of superstar employees

By Matt Kuhrt

The changing healthcare industry increasingly demands business skills from physician leaders. Not all traits are equal, however, and no matter how talented or productive individual employees may be, they can come at an unsustainably high price if they don't mesh well with their colleagues, the Harvard Business Review reports.

The findings looked at the cost of toxic coworkers in comparison to the benefit of a highly productive ones. Costs related to office turnover averaged in the neighborhood of $12,500 due to the degraded workplace environment, as opposed to the average of $5,300 added by the increased productivity of top-tier employees in the study.

A look at the traits that define toxic employees suggests they are likely to be present in high-producing individuals as well. The study found that overconfidence, self-centeredness, and slavish rule following tended to correlate with individuals fired for toxic behavior. Compounding the issue, teams with a toxic worker already on them saw a 46 percent increase in the likelihood that an additional teammate would be fired for similar misconduct.

Given the importance of high-functioning teams in healthcare, the addition of an individual who doesn't play well with others can be significant not only for a practice's financials, but potentially for the patient experience as well.

As in most such situations, an ounce of awareness is worth a pound of cure. This underscores the notion that HR should take notice of potential employees' fit with the rest of the team during the hiring process. Fortunately, even if a toxic worker does wind up on your team, individual team members who notice, stand up for themselves, and respond thoughtfully and respectfully can frequently change team dynamics for the better.

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