Picture: ISTOCK
Business meeting. Picture: ISTOCK

NOTHING is more costly to an organisation’s culture than a toxic employee. Research shows that rude workers have a stronger effect on an organisation than civil workers. How do you weed out toxic workers before they’re hired? Here are four ways:

1. Interview for civility: Asking the candidate how she managed a situation in the past provides more valuable insight than hypothetical questions. Request examples of how her past behaviour matches the values you’re looking for. Also, observe the candidate’s behaviours, such as whether she arrived promptly or speaks negatively of others. Follow up with every employee who encounters the candidate. How did she treat your receptionist? Is the candidate kind, gracious and respectful?

2. Get your team involved: Have the members go out with the candidate. You want to give the candidate an opportunity to observe your organisation’s values. Doing so will help her consider whether she’s willing to internalise those values.

3. Ask references about civility: Understanding how a candidate behaved in the past will help you assess whether he will be civil at your company. Ask references for specific behavioural examples of the candidate’s characteristics.

You should also talk to people in your network who know the candidate. And a candidate’s colleagues from lower levels can tell you if the person is the type to "kiss up, kick down." Also, check references with people to whom the candidate has been accountable outside of work.

4. Check your own civility: It’s hard to expect someone to be civil if you’re not modelling the same behaviour. No matter what the job is or how the candidate may seem, treat her respectfully.

(Adapted from "How to Avoid Hiring a Toxic Employee" at HBR.org.)

© 2016 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp