As entrepreneurs, we're typically laser-focused on hiring A-players. So focused, in fact, that we forget to do the opposite-- filter out the bad apples.

Now, you might think, "Well, if I have one or two employees who are just cruising along, that's not that bad. My A-players will more than pick up the slack."

Well, according to research from Harvard, that's not the case at all. In fact, toxic employees have a much bigger impact on your company than A-players do.

More specifically, researchers from Harvard say that a superstar performer tends to save companies $1,951 to $5,303 on average. On the flip side, a toxic worker generates a turnover cost of $12,489-- that's 2x to 6x more than what you'll save from hiring a superstar performer.

Pretty crazy, huh?

What Counts as a "Toxic" Employee

As an entrepreneur and leader, you've definitely worked with employees who aren't amazing assets to your team. Some might be a little slow to understand new concepts, and others might not be 100 percent dedicated to their jobs.

But toxic employees are a whole different breed. According to the same study mentioned before, the most obvious "red flag" for toxicity is when an employee has a constant need to spread negativity.

Basically, these are the employees who put their colleagues down without thinking, and are thoroughly unsupportive of any new measures or processes that your company is putting in place.

According to the data from Harvard, this type of employee drives your other team members to quit their jobs, and wreak a ton of damage on your company.

In my years of managing my company, I've found that there are two types of toxic employees.

First, there are those who are toxic by nature-- these are the folks who will always find some way to drag the people around them down. Separate from these guys, you have employees who start to behave in a toxic way because they believe something bad about your company.

How to Handle Toxic Employees

How you handle a toxic employee depends on which category the employee is in. If they're toxic by nature, the answer is simple-- let them go, before they have a serious impact on your team morale.

But what if your employee is behaving in a toxic manner because they heard a rumor that you're going to start laying people off? In this case, you'll want to address the issue, and speak to your team to set things straight.

Remember: to get your team to run like a well-oiled machine, communication is key. If you aren't honest with your employees, this results in distrust and dissatisfaction, and makes it difficult for your team to perform at their best.

The bottom line? Don't just obsess about hiring A-players-- make sure you look inwards and identify if there are any bad apples dragging your team down, and work on opening up communication within your company as well.

Published on: Apr 20, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.