One of the most important things a CEO can do to create a happy, healthy work environment is to choose and uphold employees who are kind, considerate team players. As Entrepreneur contributor Will Stanley explains, culture is “made up of the work and values of every employee. Each new hire can contribute to sustaining or eroding that culture.” Most employees are team players, but every once in a while, there is an employee who hogs resources, belittles coworkers, and is, well, just plain “mean.”
Mean people, or individuals who engage in “workplace violence,” are perpetrators of physical, mental, or emotional abuse, bullying, or threatening behavior. But they are not always easy to spot. Many times, mean people are very good at hiding their mean side and revealing it only when it gives them a perceived advantage. But meanness at work has a catastrophic effect on business.
A study released by the Workplace Violence Research Institute in April 1995 showed that workplace violence actually resulted in a $36 billion annual loss. But how are these mean people destroying your business? Outside of making a few cutting remarks, are they really doing anything that can threaten the foundations of the amazing business you’ve built? The answer is, unfortunately, “yes.” Here are four things mean people do to ruin your business.
We all know the busybody at work who gets into everyone’s business. But is gossip really that bad? Well, it depends on the type of gossip. One study at the University of California, Berkeley, found that pro-social gossip has numerous positive outcomes. It can increase camaraderie, reduce stress, and even lower heart rates. This type of gossip is driven by concern for others. Malicious gossip, in contrast, is the chatter that damages reputations, hurts feelings, and results in a culture of mistrust and uncertainty. As Entrepreneur contributor Lisa Evans states: “The type of gossip that starts when people feel uncertain is the worst kind of gossip and can be incredibly damaging to an organization.” The worst part of this is that malicious gossip erodes trust, which is an essential component of a happy, productive work environment.
Mean people can literally make us sick. In a 2012 UCLA study, as reported in Men’s Health, researchers found that negative social experiences were positively correlated with a higher level of inflammatory proteins that can result in heart disease, depression and even cancer. The solution to lowering these proteins is simple: cut these toxic people out of your life. With 70% of 20 and 30-year-olds reporting that their health is directly related to their relationship with their supervisors, it is clear that the quality of a person’s relationships at work directly affects his or her health.
Mean people love to promote themselves at the expense of others—and that often creates a negative culture that can not only submarine your productivity, but also ruin the excitement and morale of employees, which will further cost you. The Gallup Organization estimated that there are 22 million actively disengaged employees costing the economy as much as $350 billion dollars per year in lost productivity. Lost productivity includes absenteeism, illness and other related issues.
Mean people cost money. According to the Workplace Bullying Project Team at Griffith University, the financial cost of bullying is between $6 and $13 billion per year and can include decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, staff turnover and poor morale.
If you have malicious gossip, poor employee health, low morale, or high turnover in your business, you may be unwittingly employing mean people. To help prevent this from happening, you can interview more carefully, follow up on references, and create a character-based culture that makes it as difficult as possible for a mean person’s tricks to find traction. But if a mean individual slips through the cracks, make it a priority to curb their negative behaviors quickly before they damage the culture you’ve worked so hard to create. Your employees will thank you.