Selecting the hen who lays the most eggs doesn't necessarily get you the most efficient egg-laying metabolism. It may get you the most dominant hen, that pecked its way to the top of the pecking order at the expense of other hens. Individual selection doesn't necessarily work to the benefit of the group, but a farm's productivity is determined by group outputs.
Indeed, for some strange reason, the individual breeding programs which had been so successful at increasing egg production now required hens to have their beaks clipped, or be housed in individual cages, or they would peck each other to death.
While the conditions for group selection are only rarely right in Nature, one can readily impose genuine group selection in the laboratory. After only 6 generations of artificially imposed group selection - breeding from the hens in the best groups, rather than the best individual hens - average days of survival increased from 160 to 348, and egg mass per bird increased from 5.3 to 13.3 kg. At 58 weeks of age, the selected line had 20% mortality compared to the control group at 54%. A commercial line of hens, allowed to grow up with unclipped beaks, had 89% mortality at 58 weeks.
However, just to play the devil’s advocate, software engineering is not like chickens laying eggs (a commodity skill). Sometimes, you have problems that most normal people can’t solve on their own and the only people who can solve them happen to be brilliant but toxic.
The existence and importance of these very difficult problems can give rise to a higher ratio of toxic brilliance in a field.
Of course, you can get lucky and have brilliant and nice. I am so grateful to have worked with some of these as well.
Isolating a toxic employee can be costly (giving them a private office gives a sense of favoritism, do you give offices to the rest or alienate them?). Permitting them in general population causes good, but lower pain threshhold, employees to leave (they know they don't have to put up with it, they can get a job anywhere). You can afford to lose some, but how many is this toxic employee worth?
> Sometimes, you have problems that most normal people can’t solve on their own and the only people who can solve them happen to be brilliant but toxic.
If it's occasional, consultants on retainer. They aren't around long enough to drive (many) people away, and if you isolate them to a seemingly nice office/area people know it's temporary.
In India, the British government issued a law paying people by the weight of cobras they killed. They came back next year and found cobra farms nationwide. That was a perverse effect of their incentive system.
And Yudkowsky jumped to a conclusion prematurely: group selection must be immune to perverse effects because switching from individual selection to group selection eliminated the perverse effects in one singular instance. There are ways perverse effects can emerge from and supervene over group selection.
We had positively selected chicken for agressivity since 1000 years, we have sumatrans, aseels, old english game, cubalayas, the most vicious animals possible for generations and generations of people. All of these are really terrible layers.
There is a lot of variability in character also between different individuals from the same chicken race.
but wait... our entire economical system is based on this.
Even at the most level of the most fundamental unit of the economy -- the worker -- being a team player is just as important as being a good individual contributor. For most jobs, "fit" is a huge factor in hiring.
Hence our problems. If there's something I've learned to notice recently is that most world issues are or were very profitable for someone. I think we're past the point where "nature" is really that big of an issue, and now it's mostly just us pecking each other down either in the smaller scale, or in large, systematic ways.
Can you elaborate a bit more?
This is a result of our narrow vision.
Slavery - treating people as property, like we treat animals - is an extreme example of this, and to this day we are still facing the consequences. But we still treat animals that way - as things that are bought and sold and exploited to death. Even after such animal slavery is abolished, we will still experience its consequences, for a long time.
This is a difference between those who believe in Scarcity from those who believe in Abundance (at least in theory). The Takers and Makers.
It would be very easy to outperform capitalism if you could find leaders who care more about the output of the system than their personal power. There is no evidence that it is possible to find such leaders, and lots of evidence that capitalism resists bad leaders for extended periods of time.
As a result in practice a hybrid system of capitalism and communism tends to work the best aka socialism. See Scandinavia.
Just because something works in a tiny and homogenous country, under the shadow of a few hegemonic superpowers, does not mean that same thing will work in a super power like the US, which is larger, more heterogenous, and already contributes expenses to world society that benefit Scandinavia.
Take the military for example. In any real world war, Scandanavia would depend on the help of NATO; and yet their contributions to NATO are significantly smaller than those of the larger countries.
Would the Scandinavian system work if any of the Scandinavian countries had a population as large and heterogenous as the US? Or if Scandinavia did not save costs by relying on the power projection of larger allied countries?
What about the benefits reaped from the heterogenous nature of giant countries like USA? Are you willing to give all that up for this single goal?
All said and done, I strongly believe USA as it is moves the humanity forward considerably in the mid-long outlook. Hence my questions.
I dont have data on whether or not the system will function well as a big country or not because the data doesnt exist. The nonexistence of said data unsubstantiates any claim I can make or you can make and pushes it into the realm of speculation.
But speculate we shall. Military seems like an arbitrary choice. Socialist countries can choose to either spend on military or education and they have chosen the latter probably because there has never been a century where human society is more at peace than ever before according to all available data we have.
Why has the current century broken all records for peace on earth? Perhaps it's because, unlike previous centuries, war no longer offers spoils as it once did. A country that goes to war in the past had a net gain in wealth while a country that does the same in modern times will have a massive net loss. Information and technology have replaced territory and gold as our treasure and such a treasure can only be destroyed during war. Either way, data shows that conflict as a percentage of human population is currently massively smaller than all previous eras.
Still america chooses to build a huge army. Probably because of something called the military industrial complex. Powerful capitalist entities infiltrate a deliberately weak government and proceed to manipulate it into building an impressive yet uneeded military. Maybe? Just speculation.
Would such capitalist powers be able to influence a socialist government? What industrial complex tells Scandinavia to redirect those tax dollars towards free education instead of war?
While we tend to spend more time reflecting on failure modes (in order to continue expanding the necessary protection set), we also take for granted so many protections democratic legislation have provided us from the raw algorithmic selection of capitalism.
Naively, it seems like capitalism is a means of “top group” selection, so long as there is relatively high chance for social mobility and opportunity.
The method which worked better for chickens still involved selecting the best cohort (capitalism), and this improved over open breeding (socialism) or winner-take-all (monarchy).
Most of the time people who get stuff are the ones who have been attributed the most output individually.
Upper management was perfectly okay with that because they had good release quality and time tables.
From individual employees up to the C-level divisions they judged everything solely on what was easiest to put into a spreadsheet and it destroyed them in less than a year. Sad to say my hope they were unique was wildly optimistic.
This is important, because it implies the solution to our problems with the present is not to throw it out for a system that does worse asymptotically (eg, swap capitalism for socialism), but rather to further optimize and refine capitalism.
We select for companies that can outcompete other companies rather than ones that contribute the most to the system.
If you consider a fern to be an alligator then it's an example of a deadly reptile.
> We select for companies that can outcompete other companies rather than ones that contribute the most to the system.
I think that the whole point of our system is to ensure that firms which outcompete other firms are the ones which contribute the most total value to the system. Where this isn;t the case (e.g. as with the effects of mass advertising, monopolies &c.) it's a bug, not a feature — and should be adjusted for.
Determining which firms "contribute the most total value to the system" is just too hard to be a useful strategy.
Translating that back to the workplace, I'm more inclined to agree with TFA.
Yes, it is — which is why we have a free market instead of a central authority trying to determine who contributes the most. Wisdom of crowds & all that.
It is correct that the economy corrects a bit against this, but the incumbent advantage is so huge that even extremely mismanaged companies can live on for decades, letting these parasites thrive, build competitive resumes and then spread to healthier companies.
Companies are optimizing for survival and draining their environment of as many resources with as little compensation they can get away with.
Companies are not optimizing for the benifit of the public. benefit for the public is PR and just like billionaire philantropes they would help humanity by magnitudes more if they paid their taxes instead of tossing cookies. No big company on earth would ever limit their usage of ressources just on their own in any significant way. if the resource runs out, they die or find another resource.
This is of course a polemic statement, and reality is more shaded than this. But capitalism can and will get nasty with increasing company size and revenue. They also get better in hiding the nasty, which doesn’t make it any easier
Most utilitaristic? Best in stealing public resources while being seen as a philantropist?
What the best is, depends on the incentives, the goals and the company culture. The best Mafioso in a group of the best mafiosi will be without a doubt a damn good Mafioso – but what does this mean for the rest of society?
I understand why a isolated look at these things could make sense though
The method that worked best for people that is. It has been pretty damn horrible for chickens. From the comment:
> Indeed, for some strange reason, the individual breeding programs which had been so successful at increasing egg production now required hens to have their beaks clipped, or be housed in individual cages, or they would peck each other to death.
That doesn't sound like "better for chickens" at all. If I were a chicken I'd take open breeding any day.
The one I called a better method was the top cohort selection, not individual selection.
This is the nice thing about capitalist systems. It simply selects for whatever works. At times this is not a good thing (e.g. - perhaps convincing people to buy drugs they don't need could be more profitable than making drugs people genuinely need), but in general it tends to be better, and more organic, than what any individual or group might try to dictate as what should be desired.
As for capitalism and productivity I highly recommend Dan Lyons’ Lab Rats exposing the complete chaos that human management is in.
People dynamics are complex and well, dynamic. Changes and rules carry potential for difficult to predict outcomes.
Humans are not hens and capitalism has turned out to be extremely unproductive in many situations requiring collaboration — who would’ve thought that putting short term self interest above everything else is not the best of ideas.
So there are two ways we could approach this game. In the game theory optimal solution my goal is to minimize my worst possible outcome. In the exploitative solution my goal is to maximize my best possible outcome. This has an oddly direct analog to this conversation.
> "..who would’ve thought that putting short term self interest above everything else is not the best of ideas."
I fully agree with you. Elevating self interest to the highest assumption is an awful idea. But in practice it's the least awful of other even more awful ideas. By assuming the lowest common denominator (self interest > all) you create a scenario where the worst scenario, of people behaving in this way, is not catastrophic in any way. In fact it's wholly expected. You will probably never have a utopic outcome, but you'll also probably never have a catastrophic outcome.
Other systems have been trialed multiple times. These systems are phenomenal in theory. So long as every person agrees to cooperate and play their assigned role in a fair and equitable way we can have a utopia where no one ever need go without and everybody can live a comfortable life without fear of ever going without. The problem here is that these systems are extremely dependent upon good behavior. With good behavior, you get what some might call a utopia. But when bad behavior emerges, instead of a utopia you get starvation, oppression, and a general nightmare of existence.
Maybe one of the coolest things about capitalism though is that you're free to try any system you want, even within it! For instance the Garden of Eden  has been a phenomenally successful fully self sufficient independent commune. By contrast, if you'd like to try out a capitalist (or even some sort of communal system) within an enforced social economic system, you can't. And trying to do so would generally be met with a rather aggressive response from the government. Because once again, the sustenance of such systems require everybody play their role. If people just start doing whatever they want, the whole system would collapse. With a half dozen ideologically aligned people on a few acres of land, this works out phenomenally well. With millions of diverse people on millions or billions of acres of land, it tends to be somewhat less successful.
 - https://www.intothegardenofeden.com/
It also requires a certain wilful denial of the mounting evidence that catastrophic outcomes - including starvation, oppression, and worse - have already happened for many people, and are likely to happen for many more people in the near/medium future.
Having said, it's true that this is the Number One problem that humanity has to fix now - how to deal with bad actors?
Clearly, elevating them to positions of immense power and influence through political, corporate, and economic systems that attempt to deny their toxicity isn't the correct answer.
Meanwhile there's a certain unaware irony in applying the "toxic" label to employees, but not to employers.
Most of the FAANGs (with the possible exception of Netflix) and many prominent unicorns could be considered toxic actors in exactly the sense described in the paper the OP is based on - self-regarding, high-performers generating high productivity gains for insiders, but a net social and cultural loss overall.
Things like this are pretty improbable, but far from impossible. The odds of catastrophe are probably higher than utopia, but your concern for catastrophe should still be at least somewhat comparable to your enthusiasm for the odds of a utopia emerging from capitalism. Neither is at all likely.
As for bad actors, I imagine at one point the vast majority of politicians probably thought about getting involved in politics to try to make the world a better place. They were likely good people, like I think most tend to be. But at the same time I think we are all probably alot more 'morally flexible' than we'd like to admit.
Imagine I tell you I'll give you a million dollars a year if you agree to spend an average of an hour a day to engage in divisive trolling online. I somehow have a mind-reading device to ensure you will genuinely and actively work to do this and further my malicious ends. Regardless, unless you're already quite rich, you're probably going to agree after approximately 0 seconds of thought. What's one more troll even matter, right?
Now imagine you're in power and I want you to do something awful. So I give you a nice long power point presentation, more than enough to ensure you can convince yourself it's a good thing to do, and then offer you a very enticing sack of incentives as well. You're suddenly going to do a great job of convincing yourself that that snazzy powerpoint was right on point. I mean if you hold the banks accountable the economy will really collapse, and people will starve, it'd be catastrophic. The only way to save the world is to not only not hold the banks accountable, but to give them billions of dollars instead and work to actively re-empower them. Yes, Mr. Sachs, I see your point. I completely agree with you! Now hand me those sacks!
So the whole issue isn't about getting rid of bad actors. You need to somehow elevate people to power that cannot be swayed by self interest. I don't think this is, or ever will be, possible. Even in a time where we have Star Trek style replicators that can pump anything out in an instant there will still be incentives - ego, sex, power, fame, legacy, desirable appointments, ideological victory, etc.
I do fully agree with you on your pointing out the quite hypocritical distinction between behavior of employer and employee. Our entire economy is increasingly be driven by culturally regressive business endeavors. I think there are some solutions there, but this is another topic altogether.
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_(Ireland)
Pure capitalism and pure socialism are both destructive ideologies that inevitably lead to cruelty. Hasn't humanity moved on from this false dichotomy yet? Successful societies manage the balance between the two.
I do very much appreciate the premise of being free to try different approaches within the framework of capitalism.
However all these approaches compete with actors who do not comply to good behavior and often use highly predatory tactics both internally and toward competitors.
Also, capitalism fails to account for external factors. Selling gas pollutes everyone’s air for free. Producing billions of plastic bags and bottles affects everyone’s oceans and rivers and surroundings, for free. Maximizing exploitation and squeezing one’s workers in an employer’s market creates dangerous levels of equality, chronic diseases and destroys families, for free. Extracting and exploiting attention from a full generation of children will cripple said generation in unpredictable ways, and is still allowed, for free. Same with the destruction of privacy, worldwide.
Capitalism is good at extracting and turning resources into money. It is not good in a world of limited resources.
And I’m not even mentioning the acts of lobbying and collusion which allow corporate entities to change the environment to suit them better than it does living human beings, not unlike a colonizing force.
Capitalism selects for what works for certain individuals.
We don't know that the success of capitalism isn't just a pyramid scheme that has yet to destroy the biosphere. We only know that on the scale of a few lifetimes, modern capitalism has worked ok-ish for us in the first world. It's been pretty rough on the former colonies and the proxy states.
Capitalism is very new. Mercantilism is just in the rear-view mirror. Capitalism has been subsidized by the simultaneous rise of industrial technology.
There have been flourishings of sudden well-being in the past. The Romans, the Mayans, etc. They discovered new techniques of agriculture, shipping, weapons manufacture, bloomed and expanded and collapsed and died.
Capitalism has not yet matched the long-term success of the Roman republic or the subsequent empire, let alone the Egyptian and Chinese systems of successive dynasties supported by a civil service.
It's a huge mistake to assume that capitalism works better just because we've been doing ok with it for a while and because it's the system embraced by the country that won WWII by being across an ocean. That gave capitalism a big leg up but the headstart is running out.
Kleptocracy has a good chance of out-competing managed capitalism in the next fifty years by using regulatory capture.
If you want to avoid regulatory capture by deregulating, remember that an unfettered market has always degenerated into kratocracy (government by the powerful) and kratocracy tends to turn into aristocracy.
Capitalism: Doing OK for now!
It’s one thing for me to personally think I’m at the end of history chilling in a coffee shop in SF, it’s quite another when I’ve got the finger on the nuclear codes.
> The end of history is a political and philosophical concept that supposes that a particular political, economic, or social system may develop that would constitute the end-point of humanity's sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government.
There were a couple of leftist experiments when societies were managed like farms, but they are now considered atrocities.
In manufacturing environments, this might mean running some pieces of equipment or processes at a slower-than-potential rate to reduce errors or variance. Accelerating that process may seem to make things go faster, but increases the amount or frequency of later rework.
It comes to a figure of 12k loss as the cost of replacing the toxic employee. Yes, replacing an employee is always a net loss in isolation.
It seems to be using a tautological definition:
defines a “toxic” employee as: “A worker that engages in behavior that is harmful to an organization, including either its property or people.” Yes, that causes a net loss. By definition.
They also state they don't consider "productivity spillover" because they found spillover can sometimes be negative so they just assume it all cancels out. If Bob rebuilds something and saves every other employee lots of time going forward.... this analysis just ignores it.
The news coverage makes it seem like a tickbox study tailored to HR interests in large orgs, so they can pat themselves on the back for 'proving' that teamwork trumps uncharismatic productivity, despite the study saying nothing about that.
If one wanted to truly study these costs, they'd also be looking at charismatic unproductive people who, despite all making each other feel good, don't actually bring any value to an organisation.
There's a picture that gets re-posted on LinkedIn periodically of Netflix's CTO Reed Hastings captioned with a quote attributed to him: "Do not tolerate brilliant jerks. The cost to teamwork is too high." Although this is the sort of feel-good positive fluff that is perfect LinkedIn-bait, I can't help but notice that the people who re-post it and re-share it tend to be people who I remember personally as being mostly just regular jerks. Look, I know better than to characterize myself as "brilliant" on the internet (and I honestly don't think I am, although I do think I'm competent), two things I indisputably am are educated and experienced. Since the subjective words "talented" and "brilliant" and "rockstar" are usually used as a stand-in for the more objective but contentious terms educated and experienced, I can't help but think that somewhere in the back of their minds, they're including me in their list. The people in my network who re-post this platitude usually didn't like me very much because they found themselves in a sticky situation that they expected me to be able to get them out of. When you're educated and experienced, but you still can't solve somebody's crisis on the spot, they don't think, "oh, well, I was asking a lot", they think, "he could have helped me, but he didn't because he's a jerk who thinks he's too good for me".
As far as toxic workers go (jerks included), there are a lot of reasons they are toxic:
* They are negative all the time. They sap the enjoyment out of the room.
* They are highly critical of other's work. No one else has a problem with the work others are doing, they just nit-pick every little thing.
* They avoid hard work and only go after prestige projects. They'll try to push stuff like maintenance work onto others, and half-ass it when they have to do it.
* Anything they do wrong is met with a strong defense mechanism and a need to deflect into someone else.
I'm sure there's more, these are just off the top of my head. Contrary to belief, being 'brilliant' has absolutely nothing to do with whether someone can be toxic. I've met a few toxic people in software and out, and some were downright mediocre.
Yep. If the 80/20 rule is true(and I keep finding anecdotal evidence it is), then wouldn't the natural frustrations of the 20% doing the 80% simply be perceived as toxicity by the other 80% doing the remaining 20%?
Take a team of 10 people. If 8 people get together and decide to say the 2 top performers are "toxic"(by whatever metric that is defined), what chance do those 2 people have, even if they are doing 80% of the work?
I'm smart, I'm competent, I know what I'm doing, and, most importantly, I know how to get you to come along with me willingly.
If that fails, well, I know how to say something that only becomes devistating once I leave the room and I'm better friends with all your co-workers anyway. Come at me.
The people you saw fired lacked that final quality. They bought into the narrative that our field is a meritocracy and that's a downright lie. They poured all their effort into their skills and ego and left zero room for learning to navigate office politics. They deserved to be fired.
In both cases what the person is suggesting is in fact the right way to go most of the time. The difference is whether or not you feel you're better than everyone else.
...but if they've been with the service, let's say Netflix - as you eluded to, since it's inception, then I would think that they would know the answer far better than an engineer that's only been around a month or so.
What you're taking for arrogance might be the engineer simply stating that they've been around the block or two and, having had people try to discredit them before, they want to establish that their experience trumps someone else's own arrogance.
It's not the best way to put it, to be sure, but people have different ways of expressing themselves and/or different expectations of others.
The problem is two-fold: Understanding everyone's personalities and their expectations; and then using that knowledge to build channels of communications with those principles in mind.
If you haven't heard of Insights trainings, I highly suggest checking it out.
Anyways, so while one engineer might care about other things, which I might find arbitrary because I only care about the datasets (e.g.: something tangible), it doesn't mean that either of us are "wrong". Just because all I care about is the data surrounding a bug defect doesn't mean I'm an asshole, compared to someone who cares about the end-uer's experience. We're simply driven by different aspirations.
The same goes for your jerk engineer. Maybe they're tired of people trying to disprove their statements and tack on the, "I'm that good" at the end precisely because they're tired of the bullshit, A-type personality shit that comes with everyone trying to one-up them to look cool. Or maybe they're actually a jerk. I don't even pretend to claim to know.
...but immediately attributing malice, where other answers can just as easily suffice, does everyone a disservice because you don't rely on communication to understand the why behind whatever was said. You take this assumption you've made, let it create a bias, and then that bias affects your interactions with them.
All of that could've easily been avoided by a simple, "Hey, man (or chica or your flavour of vernacular), I wanted to ask what's up and see if you knew/understood/comprehend/what-have-you how what you said came across when...." A lot of the times, you'll probably find that they had no intention of it sounding like that but 'x' was on their mind or some other factor was in play. You could also find out that they are, indeed, a jerk; but that would, at the very least, be a confirmation and not just an assumption, yeah?
Anyways, this was a long, fuck-all, pointless diatribe to say that someone might come across to you as a feckwad but it doesn't - implicitly - mean that that's who they are, in their day-to-day.
I've experienced people I thought were arrogant as feckall, until I had 1:1's with them and got to know their personalities and perspective a lot better. Once I understood where they were coming from and how they think and/or react to things, I could tailor my behaviour better towards their personalities and they could do the same in kind.
(Sorry for the feck-all novel.)
 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP6QbVND04g
Charismatic people building their own fiefdoms that view networking as king and actual productivity gains a threat are building not just houses of cards but full scale card mansions are more actual organizational harm toxic than any ill-mannered productives.
If I try as hard as I possibly can and output 20% of an amazing individual. do I have no place in this world?
Listen, this is the basic level of human interaction. manners are oil for bodies at friction, and respect is a gateway to team participation.
If you cant see the value in that, then you are the problem. You can output a million times the output of your team, but if you dont have a team then you have nothing except yourself. and if you are the only reason for success.. why arent you Jeff Bezos?
"charismatic unproductive people who, despite all making each other feel good, don't actually bring any value to an organisation." -- This phrase stinks of devaluation. if you have a team that you view every member of as providing nothing of quality, then again.. you are the problem. Everyone has something to provide, on many different levels.you are failing to see that, and that is your problem.
but carry on my friend. if you are as amazing as you say, then ill read about you in the news soon.
blue1379 brings up some very valid questions. If a snobbish, but highly talented employee builds toolkits/engines that double or triple the production of the average employee, does the same equation used in the study apply?
On the other hand, what constitutes a "non-toxic" employee? Does everybody's buddy who convinces half the team that 2-5pm is ping pong and beer time not disproportionately decrease productivity?
He's asking for more nuance, which is never a bad thing. You seem to be demanding that things stay binary.
That person is not 'toxic' because the qualifier is that they have trained their coworkers on the frameworks they created, thus they actually get along.
I think the toxic version would be making statements like, "I spend all my time building frameworks that if my coworkers used them, would double their productivity, but they're obviously too stupid to understand. The more I hear their silly questions on how to use it, the more I realize how f'd hiring is around here that these people are 'coworkers'. So please, I give up, I'll use my frameworks and I'll be 8x more productive than them, just make them leave me alone so I can work."
What if we fire Mr Snobby Pants and hire someone who's both socially and technically competent?
My unbelievable straw man is looking great in your yard.
Along with the many things I "seem" to say versus the things I actually say.
You have a place in this world, no question.
But it may not be at the company of your choice, in the job of your choice, at the pay of your choice.
With the genes I rolled, there is no amount of work I could have done to become an NFL quarterback. C'est la vie. The NFL owes me nothing.
Totally false. Some prople are really bad at their jobs and gang up with other unproductive people to rag on those who are carrying the team. If you cant see that, you are probably insecure and rationalizing your hostility to people who are better and make you look bad in comparison.
Man.. so glad Im insecure enough to rely on these gangs to fight my battles for me. Millions of bad employees but only 5 rockstar developers like yourself.
I dont stand a chance.
I know you're saying this sarcastically, but in the context of the rest of your comments, it sounds a lot more like self-pity. Take a second to read the comments you're responding and realize how much you're projecting your own complexes onto comments that are saying nothing close to what you seem to think they are.
Not to drag politics into this, but, seriously, I think Trump has this category covered quite nicely. The costs are staggering.
The authors build their thesis around a dichotomy between "toxic employees" and "superstars" (not "rock stars" as claimed in the article summarizing the study). The authors rather woodenly make their way through various analyses that make productivity the dependent variable, while also delving into the question of whether toxicity is contagious within workplaces.
Overall I get the impression that the study authors have never actually spent time in toxic workplaces.
The most toxic employees are not those who "[engage] in behavior that is harmful to an organization, including either its property or people" -- as another commenter mentioned, this is a comically tautological definition. Rather, toxic employees are those who convince their boss that they are a superstar while making the company a worse place to work. A toxic employee isn't, as the study seems to imply, somebody who writes mean graffiti in the employee bathroom -- it's someone who berates junior staffers under the auspices of demanding excellent execution, and who finishes the year with sales growth in his division up 23%.
Fast forward to the next summer, I was dreading working there because of her. But they gave me a raise to come back and I needed the money for college so I sucked it up. Day one - she's not there! She was pregnant, close to her due date, and was taking time off. That summer the office ran like clockwork. A few ups and downs here and there, but very even keeled. I spent another summer there and she never returned, I guess she decided to be a stay at home mom for a while.
Even years later it's hard to pinpoint just what exactly she did that was insanely toxic, it was just a number of things. But it was clear as day it was happening and made it easy to spot at other places where I've worked.
There was 1 guy who had been working there for 10 years. He was a 'senior' guy who was more intermediate and took days to work on fixes that would take a couple hours for most others.
Early in my time there I was given a client of his. I was working hand in hand with him. All decisions were bounced off him and agreed upon. The customer complained and when I explained to the boss that I had been working with him all along, he denied it and let me take the fall.
Then another day, couple other techs were given a ticket to work on. They determined a new NAS needed to be deployed because the backups arent working. I was sent onsite to deploy a new nas; that's what I did.
I email everyone involved including him, he was on vacation. He replies all but excludes me; and I'm told he took me down a notch and bad mouthed me badly. Mind you I just did what I was told. He then publicly in front of me told everyone that I was screwing over his client. So I replied instantly, "For the record, I was told to deploy a NAS. I did as I'm told. I did got above and beyond and see if I could get that vmhost back alive; I couldn't and so I agree with the techs who recommended a NAS.
He did this kind of shit often to people; but he was the only person who could work on the internal network. The owners of the MSP loved him. He then got promoted to be the IT manager. This pretty much started the process of literally everyone quitting.
Of note, right after he got promoted. There was another coworker who was beyond angry that he got promoted. He was flipping his lid and tells me that he is going to kill the new IT manager. I report this death threat and I got fired the next day. I was apparently the toxic one.
The point of the study (and I have some issues with it too) is that the 23% could be 30% if you dealt with the toxic employee, or at the very least 23% is still doable without them, even though it seems like it isn't because they're better than average.
I've worked on a couple different teams where leadership did short-term-focused things like this to get numbers up and then the company paid for it later (typically after the leadership had exited or been pushed out).
This is a type of superstar toxicity that can be really harmful to your company even if people aren't quitting in droves because of the toxic employee.
I think the cost-benefit in an example like this is usually not so much "replace the asshole and get a 7% bump in growth"....it's more like, "it'll cost you a point or two of sales growth but that'll more than pay for itself in terms of lower turnover because we'll save $200k a year in recruiters fees because we won't have to pay them to find replacements for miserable junior people who don't stick around for very long".
It's never worth promoting a potentially toxic manager into a managerial role, even if they're great in their current role. If you do, the whole team suffers. If you don't and they leave because you didn't promote them, they weren't going to let you keep them as an IC anyway. Best case is you reform them, but do that before and not after you promote them.
I've seen this pattern more than I'd like.
Up until now this has also “worked” as it’s gotten things done on time. In one case, my work saved a product line that would have failed entirely. It took a lot of courage to stick my neck out and said we had to change direction. The change in direction meant abandoning something I had spent a year designing. Nobody wanted to abandon that work and shift. It was the right thing to do though. I took a huge amount risk and flack at the time and probably was almost fired. So there is good and bad to this. I am working to change but something is going to get lost. I probably won’t stick my neck out like that again.
I am also human. I make mistakes too and I’m trying to learn from all this.
Nobody's ever come right out and labelled me that way, but I suspect there are at least a few people in my past who probably would describe me that way (they'd probably backtrack and say, "well, he wasn't all that brilliant - he just knew a lot of stuff is all. But boy was he a jerk!"). Not all, not even most, but at least some. Like I said, this could all be in my head, but I don't think so - see, I've had co-workers who really didn't know how to do their job, and basically demanded my help. I'm not talking about interns who I was in charge of training, I'm talking about people with 10 years experience who had the same title, benefits and perks as I had. And they were completely incompetent. I have to work hard to keep my patience with those people, and I usually give them hints as to what to do (have you tried loading it in a debugger? Have you checked to make sure you're pointed at the right database?), but yeah, I have some disdain for these people and in spite of my best efforts to hide it, they sometimes seem to pick up on it. What's unfair about the "brilliant jerk" label (or the "competent jerk" to be less self-aggrandizing) is that the more competent you are, the more likely you're going to get the label, no matter what you do.
At one point it was so bad I felt like I was just tech support, and was in a reactive not a proactive mode because the next question is surely coming soon so I'd better not start any deep work.
I think that's one of the biggest things I struggle with and have tried to get in front of for myself.
I know picking one sentence out takes it out of context. But this is the thing I find myself working on the most to not seem like a jerk. Most of the time, if I take the time to try to understand people, then I can teach them. I've been learning this with my wife, when I got way way deep down into something and she has an opinion on it but hasn't researched it like I have, I try to throw information at her until she "sees" what I see. We actually fought about this earlier this week. I was doing what you're talking about right now.
When I catch myself doing this, I have to scale back. Not everyone will get what you are saying at the same level. Find people who do and talk to them, about the details and figure out a way to abstract your ideas for people based on figuring out what they know and how to best simplify the concepts for what they already know. It doesn't work for me all the time, sometimes I still seem like a jerk. But I struggle with this too, although I assume you are probably quite a bit more intelligent than I am.
I also use self deprecation strategically to give people I'm talking to an insight into my faults. Sometimes it helps me build kinship. Always something I believe about myself, but in a way that helps me show I'm not perfect.
>I probably won’t stick my neck out like that again.
When I find myself in this situation (which I do from time to time) I find something else worth sticking my neck out for.
>I make mistakes too and I’m trying to learn from all this.
That's what makes you an awesome human.
P.s. after I left, my manager couldn’t ship anything for 1 full year. It turns out, I was the only one keeping the boat afloat.
On one hand, I identify with what you've written here. I too had issues (still have) with working on a team.
On the other hand, I find myself identifying with someone with clear narcissistic tendencies, or at the very least is supremely unaware of themselves.
Why write this little confessional here, a place that's clearly not about you or your specific issue? Why couch it with tons of "but I didn't actually do anything wrong" notes? Why write it in such a rambling, stream-of-consciousness style? Why put these weirdly specific anecdotes, and why would the reader (who is the reader, by the way) even believe you?
I see these comments, and I get scared, because I recognize that this is how some people view me, and that's... not good.
Does this trouble folks? Went from +2 over an hour to -3 in like 30 seconds.
EDIT: toxic might be too strong; let's say difficult to work with.
you do know how Socrates was punished for such a behavior ...
The Socratic like approach seems on practice to be "win the battle, lose the war", while, for comparison, Carnegie would be something like "win the war while may be loosing the battle". Being myself that typical "battle winner war looser" with the effect amplified by the typical Russian lack of soft skills, i was at some point given a enlightening talk by a friendly American which sounded something like this "Look, you're a <high compliment of my technical abilities, i mean he is an American after all :) >. You say the technically correct things which you always start with 'No,...' and that doesn't let it to result in the otherwise possible productive effect. "
Leadership and emotional intelligence are part of intelligence.
Have you thought that maybe, instead of all of your coworkers not understanding, that YOU are the one that doesn't get it?
> In actuality I now know that I have acted like this (not always but sometimes) and I take ownership of it.
Have you taken ownership? In this post, you are still trying to justify your abusive behavior by building it up with some kind of pseudo-intellectual BS.
"As the genius-king of (random FAANG), I must be gentler with my subjects. I can see now why the NPCs were upset by my mental lashings."
Also, you still cast a lot of the blame on your co-workers for "not being smart enough" instead of owning up to your own antisocial behaviour.
> I was too harsh and I ignored emotional data.
Emotional data? Do you mean the feelings and thoughts of the people around you?
"Ignored emotional data" - I didn't care about how my co-workers felt, just that I ended up being the person who looked the smartest in the end.
> In trying to be objective, I tried to keep things logical and data based always; I would get upset when people could not follow a logical line of thought.
I seriously doubt that at a FAANG people "could not follow a logical train of thought." Maybe you just were not as convincing or clear as you thought you were.
Or maybe people were just tired of you and the way you treated everyone, and you burned all good-will when trying to get your agendas passed.
Also, here, you still make it other people's fault. "I would get upset because they were dumb." No. It is not their fault you struggled to communicate. It is not their fault you cannot control your emotions. That is your YOUR problem.
You can kick and scream all you want, but YOU have to go to the world, the world will not come to you.
> I often used, in a modified way, the Socratic method to show someone that their argument was wrong. This led people to feel I was disrespectful to them because it would force a contradiction. By doing this, I meant to teach them but I was wrong; it simply made people feel foolish. I ignored the emotional side of things and that’s a big problem for me.
This is the big one for me. "using the Socratic method to show someone that their argument was wrong" is incredibly pretentious. You are not their professor, these are not students. These are adults with degrees and jobs. Who have been through tragedy and triumph and built up at least a nugget of wisdom ( hopefully ). Not your peons to whip with "Socratic method" that makes you feel oh-so-smart. People have pride, and what your describing completely ignores that. In fact, it seems like it is seeking to HARM their pride.
"using the Socratic method to show someone that their argument was wrong" - Is that what you were doing? Or were you forcing people to play your weirdo sociopath games for longs periods of time? It sounds like you would trap them in a room and be an unpleasant sociopath instead of just explaining your reasoning like an adult.
You really do not seem to value other people or consider their thoughts AT ALL. You seem to think you are the only person with a brain. Me, personally: I would have seen through the Socratic method BS immediately, I would have found it extremely condescending, and it would have pissed me off.
> It’s also not true that I would never concede I was wrong. You just had to have a really strong case.
So you would just argue until you won. Contgratulations. You sound like a lot of fun to work with.
Isn't this just an instance of Berkson's paradox? 
You might keep someone around because they're nice, or because they're productive. So if they're neither nice nor productive, then they wouldn't be hired/retained. So 100% of surviving not-nice people are productive, whereas the nice people is a mix of productive and non-productive people.
Also the study intentionally focuses more on the cost-benefit of retaining a specific population - productive toxic people - and doesn't care about non-productive (toxic or non-toxic) people since they don't factor into that specific C/B equation.
> The most common example of Berkson's paradox is a false observation of a negative correlation between two positive traits, i.e., that members of a population which have some positive trait tend to lack a second. Berkson's paradox occurs when this observation appears true when in reality the two properties are unrelated—or even positively correlated—because members of the population where both are absent are not equally observed.
But you are also correct, survivor bias can lead to Berkson's paradox.
In reality, what are the symptoms of a toxic worker? What are the causes? What are the situations where someone might be labeled "toxic" but the real problem is something else?
* 'this deadline is unrealistic'
* 'we can't continue at this pace, we have to have time to address some serious technical debt'
* 'I heard marketing saying that we can do X, but it isn't true and to add feature X would destroy our timeline'
* 'Adding more contractors isn't going to speed this up or improve the quality, we need time not warm bodies'
Of course none of those things were what my manger wanted to hear. When things inevitably went south it all came down on me and I was managed out of the company. I'm much happier now, as I see that the job was what was toxic. My manager wouldn't listen to me and I wouldn't drink the kool-aid that all was well. In fact, I saw it as my responsibility to share these concerns and to not just go with the flow. Now that I've had time to look back on it, I just think that is his management style: grind people to the bone for all that they are worth, then throw them out and repeat to the next poor sap.
Anyways, the article is about toxic workers - but if the managers are the ones deciding what is considered 'productive' and who is 'toxic' then that isn't a very complete view of the actual environment.
And managers are technically workers too. There's no reason to put them in an ivory tower and assume they can't hate their job, hate people they work with or want to exact revenge for some wrong done against them.
Check out the difference a little wordsmithing makes:
* 'this deadline is unrealistic' — “id love to be able to get all this done for you, and with 8 weeks left, I’m only going to be able to get through half of this; let’s sit down and figure out what we can deprioritize without compromising the core of our next release”
* 'we can't continue at this pace, we have to have time to address some serious technical debt' — “I’ve noticed im having trouble moving quickly in the codebase with the level of testing we have right now, I’d love to lead an effort to improve testing and testability. Let’s resdefine ‘performance’ to include velocity, and with this new metric I’m sure we can find some time! Happy to do the leg work here.”
* 'I heard marketing saying that we can do X, but it isn't true and to add feature X would destroy our timeline' - same as 1: “I’d love to be able to get X out for you in the next release, and to do so requires we cut a few weeks scope elsewhere in the product — let’s sit down and see what we can deprioritize without compromising quality!”
* 'Adding more contractors isn't going to speed this up or improve the quality, we need time not warm bodies' — what will? “Let’s see if we can save the company some money by finding a way to work more efficiently! I’ve noticed x and y, and I’d love to take the lead on it. Let’s define some metrics to show this is as good as or better than bringing in some more contractors! The finance team is going to love our proposal.”
But then, maybe it's just that I'm prototypically toxic. And why I've always been happier as an independent consultant. Because I've tended to have slack to declare bullshit.
If someone was using the term "toxic" simply because of those behaviors, I'd say they were just using the wrong word.
Based only on what you wrote, another possibility seems to be that some aspect of how you communicated those concerns, or some other aspect of your behavior entirely, is what caused people to consider you "toxic". It would be interesting to hear your former manager's view of things.
In my own experience, I've had plenty of cases where my own view of my conduct was very different from how my coworkers viewed me. The cumulative impact of miscommunication and my occasional lack of self-awareness has caused me some serious grief.
If they're all doofuses, it's time to leave!
But, if they're reasonable people, things will change for the better.
But in practice, 9/10 times when somebody says "toxic" they really mean rebellious (i.e. disagreeing with management decisions, calling out dishonest messaging, asking for transparency over management mistakes, sharing frustrations).
The article uses a loaded term to create a false-equivalence between "harmful to company" and "rebellious."
"toxic worker" is a pretty textbook definition now:
-horrible team player
-plays for the spotlight, claims credit in the spotlight, does little work privately
-if in mgmt, verbally/mentally terrorizes subordinates
People took the notion of a fluid language and took it too far, by letting words mean whatever they think they mean and refusing to get corrected and/or abide by a standard definition.
Which is the whole point of these sorts of studies: education
In areas where "toxic working" is ID'd as the risk it really is (i.e. this study is old, old news), it's never a term thrown around as a political term like you're concerned about. It's a specifically cancerous, horrible way of working that's seriously easy to identify. It's like trying to play politics with the term "water leaking" to describe anything other than water leaking.
Lots of nuance in judgement. Most people feel toxicity, but there are strong incentives to maintain situational homeostasis and capitalize on others’ blind spots.
Personally I’ve dumped a lot of that programming and am looking for non-judgemental and discerning workplaces, like I remember from early in my career. Hopefully not a pipe dream.
In reality he was causing 10x more problems than he fixed, and for multiple years in a row his personal overtime spending was significant in a company of 500 employees.
-horrible team player
-Unfortunately hugely effective at getting results
-plays for the spotlight, claims credit in the spotlight, does little work privately
-if in mgmt, verbally/mentally terrorizes subordinates -etc etc
It's just a truly poisonous person, who tends to be extremely performant so they can stick around in orgs, whose lack of interpersonal skills in the above realms more or less destroys teams in the long run.
That's why literature on toxic workplaces tends to not define toxic workers as "achievers" but as "high performers."
Frankly, that confusion is why this study exists. Orgs have to learn to figure out what who is "achieving," and who is "toxic working and getting results." It's a really common confusion point, but is only solved by education and good leadership.
Put another way, it's 10000% possibly to be a high achiever, and do none of that type of behavior.
From a mgmt perspective, assuming a good manager, it does.
If your team/org doesn't approach it that way, the solution is find a high performing team that does approach it that way, not become toxic yourself. 10/10 high performance, long term successful teams approach things this way (source: this study, and people who have experienced this approach luckily).
From my experience in most cases it's not getting you anywhere. You will just be taken as granted.
In the long run always individuals are blamed and not groups..
What does this mean? Symptom and result are the same thing.
Essentially what we define as toxic, he defined as dangerous, and felt those people should be eliminated from the Army at all costs because they cause far more harm than good.
Von Moltke (the elder) is also considered as the creator of a new, more modern method of directing armies in the field, which is still used today. He also commanded by intention than by direct action, von Molkte felt that strategy needed to be adapted as battle progressed, so rather than having his staff officers be held to rigid direct action orders the had everyone working toward a series of goals, making adjustment along the way, sounds a lot like Agile software development.
Are we? To me, it seems that what is meant by "toxic" in the article and this comment thread falls on the "COMMANDERS" square. Smart and lazy.
In full honestly, I believe "toxicity" is orthogonal. Dumb "toxic" people are easy to get rid of. Smart "toxic" people are the ones over which a company may agonize.
'Toxic' is just a slightly more sophisticated way of saying 'big mean jerk' (i.e. something completely subjective and open to interpretation).
Same thing with a "rockstar" asshole engineeer. If you weren't an awesome engineer on top of being an asshole, you wouldn't even be employed and we're not talking about you.
It's not because there's this magical correlation between being a "rockstar" and an asshole. This is just an outcome of sampling.
I get that this article is about the trade-off between productivity and a less-easily-quantifiable loss to morale. But only a sliver of the people hearing about the study from this article will be carefully applying the lessons learned in towards their personnel decisions.
I do wonder, if your whole team is made up of these "toxic" individuals, does productivity skyrocket as a result of the constant competition?
On an aside, isn't the end outcome of the article just an office full of mediocrity where no one really sticks out? How do you get natural leaders with that kind of situation?
I'm left to imagine what exactly is a "toxic worker", what it means for them to be "productive", and how that definition of productivity allows some metal shop in Pennsylvania to become more profitable ("value of shipments per labor hour jumping from $85-90 to $123) after losing these so-called productive employees.
No definitions of "toxic", or "productivity" are given, nor any concrete (or even vague) examples of behavior or work output from which these definitions could be deduced.
In other news, red apples emit more red light than green apples.
If this is how they defined toxic, then the findings of the study are simply tautological.
> avoiding a toxic worker (or converting him to an average worker) enhances performance to a much greater extent than replacing an average worker with a superstar worker
>avoiding a (worker that engages in behavior that is harmful to an organization, including either its property or people) (or converting him to an average worker) enhances performance to a much greater extent than replacing an average worker with a superstar worker
Well yeah, of course it does. A harmful worker causes harm. Duh.
It is better to remove a bad employee, than hire a better one. More urgent anyway.
I don't think that's appropriate. Flagged.
When person A calls person B toxic, the only thing we can really conclude is that A really dislikes B. The study gets around this subjectivity by defining toxic to mean "harmful to an organization," but this definition make the study's conclusion a tautology: firing people who harm an organization is beneficial the organization.
I highly doubt that 'toxic worker' has a consistent definition. Humans are tribal animals, and if you look through history I'm sure you can find see examples of 'toxic' members of tribes. Maybe at one point being left-handed made you a 'toxic' member of your tribe. It all comes down to what values and truths exist in the hive mind, and whose agenda is being served
Not my personal experience. I have seen that they are perceived as better as they have less self-doubt and sound more authoritative. But, the ones I have work with were bad.
Usually toxic workers seen as more productive and bad/inexperienced management go hand with hand.
Why do you need to choose between these two though? Can't an interviewer pay attention to both the technical skills and the attitude of a potential hire? This sounds like a forced dichotomy just to justify a study nobody needs.
> While toxic employees are more productive, meaning getting more things done, the quality of that productivity often is less than desirable
If work is not up to standards then it's not done work and can't be considered productivity, can it? Again, do we really need a study to tell us that bad personality people who rush half done jobs to get that KPI are not what you want as employees?
> do we really need a study to tell us that bad personality
> people who rush half done jobs to get that KPI are not
> what you want as employees?
That is my slant on this, because I observe that often times, the incentives in organizations are to do the wrong thing that leads to the local optimum, where we define "local" as, a particular manager's well-being.
If a manager is rated by the measured productivity of their teams, the will hire for the ability to make the number and manage to the number, regardless of whether the number reflects the overall good of the team or organization.
As they say, "You show me a metric, and I'll show you a game."
In a dysfunction organization, everyone can be individually aware that the organization's management is dysfunctional, but it can't be changed without an overwhelming majority of managers simultaneously cooperating.
<insert citation to game theory and cooperating vs. defecting>
Not only that, but some managers actually do better by "quelling rebellion" and enforcing the dysfunction. They will actively undermine any effort to organize change.
You don't need people to be ignorant of things like this, you just need people to be attached to their individual incentives, and you need a culture where those who try to make change are rejected by the host culture.
This piece is, to borrow a term, "not even wrong." There's no proof that "toxic workers" are more productive. By all accounts, toxic workers come in all shapes and sizes -- and what is a toxic worker, really? Is it someone who is physically and psychologically harmful to everyone in their lives and should probably seek rehabilitation before being reintroduced to society? Okay, that's one thing.
Is it someone who is not being managed properly, pushed into the wrong role, not given the right tools to do their job? Are they stuck in a dysfunctional culture run by sycophants, idiots and bullies? Are they unintentionally paving a road to hell with the best of intentions and the worst of consequences?
What I'm trying to get at here is the necessity of supervision. Organizations have command structures and hierarchies, whether implicit or explicit. The risks and consequences of those structures ultimately lies with management and leadership -- after all, it's with them that the true agency lies!
If it's not the job of management and leadership to train, manage out or fire misfits within the organization, what exactly is their job? After all, it's not individual contribution. There's sales, marketing, fundraising -- but except for the last one (and even that's a stretch), these are all team efforts. You maximize output from your team by removing unnecessary friction. If that can't happen passively, active changes need to be made.
Of course, such a brain-dead thinkpiece never couches with such responsibility or collectivist realities. They're comforting kernels of individualist tactics, sold to give the illusion of control. They're as attractive as a trendy new diet built on poor foundations, but about as effective: that is to say, not at all.
Nothing can kill a company as quickly as poor leadership. As a company gets larger, logistics rears its ugly head. Pragmatic structuring can mitigate that, and good leadership can bring about directional change towards that. But, nothing can stop bad leadership until it wants to improve.
I personally agree with this.
But, there's this other school of thought out there (which I'm tired of, frankly) that seems to believe management is supposed to "hire the best", pay them well and stay the hell out of their way. The reasoning is that "all these geniuses we've hired" will create a vast new pool of profitability through unfettered innovation, deep insight, and wild creativity. Or something. I believe that Google and Facebook think they are doing this with their hiring practices.
Of course, I'm being hyperbolic when I say that because I think that part of what makes a star IC is someone who's good at assisting the team -- that's part of what makes great teams so devastatingly effective. That's part of what makes me very skeptical of that school of thought -- if you're really naive to believe that great teams come when you group a bunch of star ICs together (hint: it doesn't), how would you even know if you ended up screwing it up and it came out dysfunctional? You wouldn't, because you're not incentivized to. Your job as a manager and leader ended when you hired them.
I find this kind of laughable, honestly.
I personally wouldn't want want to give up entirely on all the socially inept assholes whose in-depth knowledge on crap that I don't care to know about (but rely on) seemingly knows no bounds. More specifically, I do want to keep the IT department.
This sort of describes the sociopaths of the Gervais Principle.
I don't necessarily see how this is a Bad Thing to be. If relationships help you through the day, sure, go for it, but it doesn't help you in your goals. Furthermore, your goals are, unless you are working for your own company, quite often directly opposed to what the company wants.
EDIT: let me expand on this:
Companies want (basically) the following:
- You to do as much work as possible
- You to require as little payment as possible
- Be completely loyal to the company, ie: work whenever they need you to, don't even think about changing jobs, etc etc.
What you (should) want:
- Have job where you'd be most content, which could be at your current job, but probably isn't. Let's be fair: your own ideas for projects would be much more fun to work on then whatever you do for the company.
- Get paid as much for the work you do
- Do as little work as possible, so you have more time for yourself, your family and friends.
I don't really see how their definition of 'toxic' checks all the boxes above. I don't care all that much for the company goals, since they are (to me) much less important than my own goals. I don't care too much for relationships with co-workers; they're my co-workers, they're not the life-long friends I already had before I started this job. Furthermore, given that on average they'll be gone in 2.5 years, spending too much time and energy into creating a relationship with someone who'll be gone by then seems like wasted effort. Furthermore, I am covert about this (since saying these things outright would be bad for my career prospects).
However, my input in this company is still a net win (for both parties).
Their definition of 'toxic' is therefore inadequate.
Someone passionate about their work would be better for the company but well perfect being the enemy of the good. Trying to get all "perfect" employees for everything is usually a "juicero" approach in majorly overspeccing for what could be better handled by the common. Just because rocket science and self driving cars need top talent and passion doesn't mean that your IoT waffle-iron company needs fanatics. Not meantcas elitism but "there are places for all kinds of people - and nobody is entitled to them".
To bring the metaphor to a creepy but apt conclusion the AK-47 was legendary for its reliability with imperfect parts and loose specs while being roughly comparable to more expensive and precise rifles prone to issues in harsher environments. There are many valid approaches to things.
However more pathological in a parasitic dynamic is clearly bad and sadly prevalent high and low in organizationsm
I see no reason why a worker should ever care about company goals, unless they align with her/his own goals, or that not drinking the kool-aid is a short ticket to get fired. (Or unless they have equity - but this is very rare in the general employment market, compared to HN)
Doing "as little work as possible" in particular would immediately put you in the category of "toxic" here, specifically because it's completely unnecessary to living a balanced life. The only person that helps is you, as opposed to what a healthy person does, and that's find ways to help both themselves and the company.
It's not zero sum, and treating work like it is makes a person toxic.
Wait, let's step back there.
I didn't say I'm opposed to the company's goals. That's something different. I'm not saying: "well, I think we should have no customers whatsoever, and lose as much money as we possibly can". I'm saying: "If you want me to do deployments outside of business hours, you will have to pay me extra for doing so, since you're eating into my time with friends and family".
> Doing "as little work as possible" in particular would immediately put you in the category of "toxic" here
I said 'want to do as little work as possible'. That's something different from doing it. I'm not sitting at my desk browsing the hours away on forums. If I could get paid the same for working 5 hours less a week though, I'd take that option in a heartbeat.
> specifically because it's completely unnecessary to living a balanced life.
Life doesn't come easy to everyone, and a balanced life even less easily. Some people need more time than others to recuperate from a week's work. If it comes easier to you, all the more power to you, but it doesn't to everyone.
> The only person that helps is you, as opposed to what a healthy person does, and that's find ways to help both themselves and the company.
Sometimes there is no good way that helps you and the company at the same time.
> I didn't say I'm opposed to the company's goals. That's something different.
Are in conflict. It's possible you only think of goals as in, "Grow by 50% this quarter" and not, "Maximize the productivity of my team," but that's incorrect. If the company has a goal of "deploy during off hours", it can be done in a way that benefits the employee and the employer. CI/CD for example.
The thing is, even the productivity goal can be done in a mutually beneficial way, but your philosophy doesn't allow for that, and that makes the "zero sum" or "as little as possible" philosophy a toxic one.
it addresses the most important aspects of the toxic employee syndrome which i personally have encountered in multiple working environments. every manager should read this article.