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Pre-Employment Testing to Avoid Toxic Hires

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How to reduce the chances of a toxic hire

Integrated pre-employment testing

Research undertaken by SACS demonstrates that predictors of bad behaviour include cognitive ability, personality, and attitudes towards diversity.

Using an integrated pre-employment testing process will ensure that the next hire that you make will be somebody who will contribute positively to your corporate culture rather than acting toxically.

Read on for practical tips on how to do this.

How to reduce the chances of a toxic hire

Watch the video to understand how you can use recruitment assessments to identify candidates who are less likely to engage in counterproductive workplace behaviours.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 9 – Clarifying Acceptable Workplace Behaviours

And watch the previous video here:

Part 7 – The Frequency of toxic behaviour in the workplace

And if you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Video Transcript

Hi, Andrew from SACS and welcome to video number eight in our 11 video series on toxic employees.

This one is about integrated pre-employment testing to ensure that the next hire that you make will be somebody who will contribute positively to your corporate culture rather than acting toxically.

So we’re going to show you some practical techniques for how to do this, but also some research findings that show you how to make sure that your next hire will be somebody who will be positive rather than negative.

Personality and values

This diagram (refer to video) shows a piece of research that we add to talk with some thousands of people here in Australia and New Zealand.

We measured levels of interpersonal counterproductive, work behaviours.

We also measured some other things in this process.

We asked people questions such as how often are you rude to other people? How often do you steal things from work? How often do you snub or ignore people? To what degree do you find that you can’t get along with people? And in fact, because this was a confidential questionnaire these thousands of people answered these questions pretty honestly.

Well, they certainly seem to have because we got lots of admissions for these kinds of things, but we also had the opportunity to psych test them.

And so what do you see in this diagram is where we’ve measured the levels of interpersonal counterproductive work behaviour.

So bullying, harassment, snubbing, ignoring, that kind of stuff. And we measured their personality and we measured their values at the same time.

And so that gave us an opportunity to see the relationship between these interpersonal counterproductive work behaviours. And people’s psychological characteristics based on the HEXACO personality inventory, HEXACO being an extremely well recognised international measure of personality and values.

This was based on a thing called the Schwartz portrait values questionnaire, Shalom Schwartz being one of the most important researchers in the world on values.

This method of science is called multiple regression and it allows you to assess the accuracy of prediction of, in this case, interpersonal counterproductive work behaviours from a person’s personality and values. And what we discover the answer about how accurately this prediction can be made is here.

This number here is in effect 40% accuracy.

So the shared variance between interpersonal counterproductive work behaviours and personality and values is around about 40%. And so what that means is that there’s a very strong relationship between interpersonal counterproductive work behaviours and a person’s personality and values.

It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? Because what it’s saying is that if you understand a person’s personality and values, you can predict with 40% accuracy how likely it is that they’re going to do these unfortunate things, bullying, harassment, snubbing those kinds of things.

So that’s worth knowing.

Predictors of bad behaviour

What you have down in this corner here (refer to video) is a description of the most powerful predictors of whether a person is likely to do these bad things.

And so the first characteristic is the characteristic of sociability. So the characteristic of sociability is the tendency to like people.

When people are low in the characteristic of sociability that personality characteristic indicates that they’re more likely to bully and harass people.

Makes sense, doesn’t it. If you like people, perhaps you don’t do it so much but this is science based on thousands of people.

So in this case, the intuition is true. People who like people are less likely to do bad things to them.

The second one is the honesty, humility characteristic.

I’ve mentioned honesty, humility in other videos and honesty humility is the characteristic of being truthful and straightforward.

But most importantly, modesty, which is the measure here, means not arrogant.

So people who are arrogant are much more likely to bully and harass people than people who are not arrogant.

So that’s useful from a recruitment point of view, but it also can be useful for when you’ve got employees that are acting toxically.

If you see arrogance in the behaviours then that can be a warning sign that there is a broader concern, that this is a personality trait that may be enduring in this person.

Then conformity, which is a value.

So this is a value down here.

Conformity means I don’t like to break the rules. I think that rules are sensible. It’s my objective to make sure that I follow rules.

People who are like that are less likely to bully and harass people than people who are kind of mavericks and they don’t care about rules.

So that’s an interesting one.

The tendency to prefer rules is an indicator of more positive and less negative behaviour.

Then we have fairness, which is, again, an honesty, humility, characteristics are up here.

Fairness and fairness is the degree to which a person is likely to want solutions to be equitable, reasonable, not a advantaging them unfairly. And so that’s an interesting characteristic.

People like that are less likely to do these bad things and finally forgiveness.

This is an agreeableness characteristic. Forgiveness is the degree to which a person carries grudges. And when a person does tend to carry grudges, they’re more likely to do bad things to colleagues.

Now, this is sort of the top few of these predictors, but obviously there are other predictors.

I really just picked out the characteristics that I thought were most powerful from a statistical point of view, to demonstrate that if you’re going to recruit people, recruit people who are kind of reasonable easy to get along with, not arrogant and not somebody who’s likely to be dishonest or manipulative.

If you get those characteristics then that can be favourable.

Now, clearly these things can be extremely hard to identify an interview, which is why people use psych testing on the way in.

Cognitive ability

I also mentioned in earlier videos, the relationship between cognitive ability and toxic behaviours.

And so you’ll see (refer to video) these are cognitive ability scores, verbal reasoning.

You’ll see this person’s got a low score in verbal reasoning.

They’ve got a low score in numerical reasoning and they also have a low score in abstract reasoning.

So what that means is that if you average those three results, in effect, this person has low cognitive ability.

And as we’ve indicated earlier, people who have low cognitive ability are more likely to do bad things.

Now, in addition to that, of course, if you recruit people who have low cognitive ability, it also takes ’em longer to do stuff.

They can’t solve problems as well. So cognitive ability is a great predictor of outcome success at work, in any event.

But if you recruit people who are smart, they’re also less likely to do bad things as well.


And then we have personality and I’ve indicated the personality drivers through that previous piece of research.

But if we look at this score (refer to video), you see this person’s low in honesty, humility, and low in modesty.

So that is a worry that this person may be likely to be a kind of an arrogant, difficult kind of a person, which may not be ideal.

You’ll also see that the person is low in extroversion and in particular, their sociability score is okay, but they’re really quite a gloomy pessimistic person.

That’s what liveliness means. When a person has a low score in liveliness, it means that they’re likely to be gloomy and pessimistic and therefore, perhaps a little cynical as well.

You’ll see that the person’s conscientiousness scores are quite low, which means that firstly from a work point of view, this is likely to be somebody who’s not particularly committed to what they do and may even show signs of laziness, but a combination of low honesty, humility and low conscientiousness is an indicator of the potential for psychopathy type behaviours or negative behaviours that relate to psychopathy.

If a person has this score doesn’t mean that they’re a psychopath, but psychopaths typically do have low honesty, humility and low conscientiousness in combination.

So their personality markers of dangerous characteristics, but in a general sense, obviously somebody who has these characteristics is typically not going to be a highly motivated and positive employee.

And so it’s worthwhile recruiting people who have more favourable characteristics.

Counterproductive work behaviours

Then we have counterproductive work behaviours.

So this is a measure of counterproductive work behaviours (refer to video). And you’ll notice that this person has a low risk for counterproductive work behaviours which are interpersonal.

So that’s good, but sadly, a high risk for organisational counterproductive work behaviours.

And so whilst this person is probably not a risk from the point of view of bullying and harassment, they may well be a risk for things like stealing, for ignoring your rules.

Things like taking sick days when they’re not really sick.

So there’s organisational counterproductive work behaviours.

They are a risk for that.

Attitudes towards diversity

And then attitudes towards diversity. And so you’ll see that this person has been measured for four attitudes towards diversity, gender, ethnicity, age and disability. And this is our standard package.

This is a kind of an integrity test that measures attitudes towards diversity.

And what that means is that low score on gender means that they’re not sexist.

The low score on ethnicity means that they’re not racist.

The low score on age and disability means that they don’t have negative attitudes to people with disability or the elderly.

So in general, you would assume that this is a person who’s kind of a clean skin when it comes to those inclusiveness issues and can be regarded as somebody who should be a safe option in terms of those diversity and inclusion considerations that are so important.

In the video so far, we’ve shown you a lot of ideas about the types of people that you should recruit in order to make sure that you’ve got a positive workplace.

Now we are going to give you some ideas about how to create clarity amongst your work group to ensure that people do understand the behaviours that are necessary to create this positive workplace and to avoid toxic behaviours.

Join us to find out how to do this.

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about dealing with toxic employees:

Part 9 – Clarifying Acceptable Workplace Behaviours

And watch the previous video here:

Part 7 – The Frequency of Toxic behaviour in the workplace

And if you’d like some help screening future hires for toxic behaviour, contact us about our Psychometric Assessment Tools.

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