The unemployment rate for hardware and software engineers hovers around two per cent in Silicon Valley, with recruitment problems at a peak, so companies are increasingly unwilling to fire 'problem employees'.
The likes of Intel, Cisco and Sun are nowadays willing to spend between $10,000 and $20,000 to send their talented but difficult workers to somewhere like the Silicon Valley's Growth & Leadership Center (GLC) in Mountain View.
The challenge, said Jean Hollands, chief executive of the GLC, is getting companies to realise just how much their dysfunctional behavior is hurting the bottom line.
Yet companies are reluctant to simply fire people because of the difficulty and expense of replacing them.
The GLC treats and counsels some 300 people a year and around 85 per cent of them come from neighboring hi-tech companies.
Holland's firm devised the 'Costimator', a mathematical formula that calculates the actual dollars lost due to problem employees. The formula takes into account the employee's salary and benefits, their impact on company revenues and other people's performance, the cost of replacing the employee and the cost of intervention and counselling.
"A dysfunctional senior manager can easily cost a firm hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in lost productivity, employee turnover and damage control," she said.
When you see those numbers in black and white, she added, the cost of employee counselling usually pales in comparison. Holland pointed out that in the past year, her firm has saved an average of $100,000 for each employee with the companies who have contracted with GLC.
Hollands said the most prevalent personality type to appear at the centre is the 'intimidator'. Members of this group berate and harrass their colleagues because they believe they aren't good or smart enough.
"They cause the most pain to companies and are the biggest expense to a company," she said.
Other problem employees are 'stressors', who just burn themselves out, and 'controllers', who drive everyone nuts with all their rules and structures and policies.
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