Thanks to science, we've long ago nailed down the exact cost to colleagues of working with toxic people: avoiding hiring a certified A-class jerk can save a business an average of $12,489, according to research out of Harvard Business School.

But does that figure account for the total harm done by your friendly office psychopath?

Probably not, if a new study led by Sandy Lim of the University of Singapore is anything to go by. Lim and her team proved that the negative impacts of rude and inconsiderate co-workers don't stop at the office door.

Work with a jerk, become a jerk

You might have suspected that those bullied at work take their stress home with them, affecting family life, but this research managed to scientifically document the impact outside the office. The research team asked 50 workers to keep detailed records of any ill treatment at work, while also asking their partners to keep track of their behavior at home.

Sure enough, when an employee was subjected to rudeness as work, they often ended up passing on that hostility to their significant other both through angry outbursts and by emotionally withdrawing at home.

Lim's study was focused exclusively on spouses (and to be fair, was also pretty small), but as a research release posted on the Association for Psychological Science website makes clear, the findings line up with previous studies done on the relationships between mothers bullied at work and their kids.

"After describing their day at work, the mothers were reunited with their children. Analyses of the videotaped reunions showed that, if they had reported a more demanding workload or more negative interactions with coworkers and supervisors, the mothers spoke less and were less emotionally engaged...with their preschoolers, compared to their behavior on less stressful days," the researchers said.

The office jerk isn't just costing you.

These results are also consistent with a stack of studies showing all sorts of behavior, from laughter to productivity, are also catching.

The bottom line is this: when considering what to do about toxic workplace behavior, remember it's not just costing you, your colleagues, and your company. The office jerk is also harming your family as the bad moods brought about by his (or her) horrible behavior are likely to infect your partner and kids too.

It's one more reason to think seriously about adopting a zero-tolerance policy for jerks in your life.

Published on: Aug 5, 2016
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