You Can't Sit With Us

“You can’t sit with us,” this infamous line from the movie “Mean Girls,” while crass, may have been forecasting a trend, much bigger than the pun originally planned.

In the movie we watch as exchange student, Cady Heron is invited into the popular group, and eventually starts taking on the toxic characteristics of her fellow lunch mates.

New research shows that where you sit at work, and who you sit next to can have a similar affect. Toxicity of employees plays a large role in employee’s performance and attitude. Studies have found that toxic employees have a far greater effect – and not a good one — on an organization’s culture, costs, and performance, than their non-toxic top performing counterparts. In fact, Gallup estimates disengaged workers cost the U.S. around $550 billion annually.

Here are two key ways to ensure your organization doesn’t fall prey to unproductive and damaging behavior.

Office Layout: While toxic employees are a serious and costly issue in the workplace, it can be addressed and fixed. One solution is to purposely seat lower performing employees by high performers. It may seem counterintuitive, but research has shown that people absorb the energy around them, and in this case, lower performing employees become more competitive, in a good way, in the presence of exemplary employees. And the high performers? There was little to no impact on the quality of their work.

Hiring: The best way to minimize the effects of toxic employees is to avoid hiring them in the first place. In addition to looking at each candidate’s skillset, try to gauge whether or not they’ll be a cultural fit. “An employee who is not aligned with the culture and is not committed to living it can wreak havoc pretty quickly, even if they bring a great deal of skill and experience to their craft,” says expert Lauren Kolbe.

Many organizations are creating employee personas to help identify what types of people are good cultural fits and can help weed out potentially toxic candidates during hiring process. The more people you hire based on skill set and cultural fit, the larger chance you have of creating top performers and instilling a culture of productive and effective employees.

Bottom line, you want to build a culture that is conducive to productive and positive outcomes, start by looking at your people and your office layout!

Does your organization have an exemplary workforce? We’d love to hear how your organization encourages productivity and evokes a positive culture.