Counter-productive behaviour at work

Counter-Productive Behavior at Work


Counter-Productive Work Behavior (CWB) is basically an umbrella term defining behaviors by employees that are intended to cause harm to the company or the individuals in it, including staff members and customers. While engaging in the CWB, it’s clear that the concerned individuals have made up their mind to go against the already set organization’s goals and aims. Scholars have argued that other than being malicious, CWB has been always conscious; none of the behaviors can be said to be accidental nor unconscious, neither are they incidental in nature. The drive force behind CWB is quite broad with some including environmental concerns, absence of training, employee personality and dynamism in life among other external factors. On that note, this paper provides an essay review recent literature on the individual and contextual antecedents of deviant workplace behavior and attempting to fit those findings into a theoretical framework by allowing to predict CWB.

Literature Review

Personality and Workplace Deviance

Personality is a fundamental ingredient in determining the level of engagement by staff members in workplace deviance. As an aspect of CWB, personality can potentially affect the dedication and indulgence by employees at every step, since it impacts on an individual’s perception and appraisal of the working environment. It further impacts on an individual’s attribution of the causes of events, both mental and emotional progress and how they inhibit not only aggressive but also counterproductive impulses.

Prior research has illustrated that increased cases of conscientiousness and agreeableness reduces the propensity by an individual to indulge in workplace deviance (WD). High conscience individuals tend to be careful and hardworking, expressing high levels of dedication to the assigned tasks. Agreeable individuals, on the other hand, are always courteous, quite considerable and can be trusted and will rarely be involved in relational conflict. Individuals with low levels of these traits are prone to indulge in WD both in private and public setting. They put less effort, always break rules, irresponsible and always inconsiderate, with most of them tending to be more manipulative.

Five Factor Model (FFM)

According to Bell & Njoli (2016), FMM, also referred as the Big Five, is a theory encompassing five broad dimensions adopted by psychologists in giving a detailed illustration of human personality. The elements of the FFM include extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. There is a high correlation between FMM and job satisfaction experienced by members of the staff. Generally, there is a high probability that satisfied employees will remain in their respective positions and get rid of absenteeism as compared to non-satisfied ones.

Generally, there is a high correlation between job performance and FFM, and mainly impacted upon by the social aspect of the working environment as compared to ability itself. The aspects of FFM exhibit a strong correlation with cooperation among the staff members and a positive experience of the workplace environment, which encompass the long-term job success. Absenteeism and team work are examples of the elements of personality with direct impacts on whether one would succeed or fail while performing the assigned duties, with the two strongly correlated with FMM.

Dark Triad

Dark Triad (DT) encompasses three personality traits; Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy, all proven to predict misbehavior. Scholars argue that the three traits are observed among individuals with these traits have the common tendency of being callous, selfish and in most cases malevolent when dealing at an interpersonal level. Empirically, the DT personality traits are linked to lots of negative results with most of them likely to engage in revenge, hostile behaviors, infidelity and lies in the workplace.

Previous researchers have confirmed negative relationships between DT and citizenship behaviors. For instance, it has been proven that Machiavellianism predicts undesired and unprofessional citizenship behaviors at the organizational level, including bad conduct with other employees. Primarily, they are self-interested and never invest themselves for concerns with the company as an entity, as expected. It has further been proven that having departmental heads with psychopathic tendencies yields minimal corporate social responsibility and reduced levels of organizational support for the staff members.

Situational Factors

Organizational Injustice

Ahmed & Khan (2016), have argued that unfair treatment of employees will always evoke negative attitudes and motions towards work alongside deviant work behaviors. Empirically, it has been proven that since justice impacts on psychological, economic and moral aspects among others, the motivation arising from the same makes justice a more salient factor. It has been proven that individual’s perception and experience of justice delivered at the organizational level, to a greater extent are related to deviant behaviors. Also, the significant impacts of justice on deviant behavior are greatly influenced by quite a number of organizational, contextual and contextual individual characteristics.

Zribi & Souaï (2013), suggest that there are quite a number of relevant roles undertaken by organizational justice in the work life of an employee basing on a number of reasons. The instrumental perspective postulates that justice is an influential factor in fulfilling economic needs raised by employees in an organization. Relation perspective argues that justice, through fair treatment to the entire members of staff, affirms an individual’s identity within one of the valued groups. Finally, the moral virtue perspective posits that fair treatment to all employees signifies the level of adherence by an employee towards prevailing moral standards.

Interpersonal Conflicts

Chiu, S., Yeh, S., & Huang, T. C. (2015), have suggested that the presence of interpersonal conflict, aggressiveness and stressful conditions in an organization make employees feel that they are working in an environment that is politically oriented. As a result of this feeling across the employees, the conditions worsen as time goes by. Interpersonal conflict comes into play one of the vital responsibilities have been to employees with the negligence of proper authority.

In all cases, stress comes in when a member of staff feels embarrassment to an organization. As a result, the individual end up being stressed when the set expectations exceed his/her belief of the management ability. According to Shamsudin, Subramaniam & Sri Ramalu (2014), work and nonwork conflict raise the level of stress within an organization, and in turn, negatively impacting on the employees’ attitudes and behaviors. There is a strong correlation between interpersonal conflict and interpersonal incapability, and in most cases comprising of affective elements such as friction and tension, animosity, all resulting in stress at the workplace.

Job Satisfaction

LasisiOlukayode, Okuneye & Shodiya (2014), have argued that managements can make use of job dissatisfactions in predicting quite a number of specific behaviors such as unionization attempts and undue socializing among others. These behaviors indicate deviant behavior at the organizational level with similar cases of employee withdrawal. According to Zorlu & Bastemur (2014), the key is the negative responses arising from dislike of the work environment by the employees, though it may be tricky at times to predict the nature and direction of their respondents.

Indicators and Risk Factors

Fraud Triangle

According to Free (2015), among the indicators and risk factors of CWB is fraud triangle (FT); a framework meant for giving further explanation as to why the employee had to indulge in workplace fraud. FT entails the three stages; pressure, opportunity and rationalization. Pressure is both a risk factor and indication since it motivates the employee to indulge in the crime. The same applies to opportunity, which is a more precise course of action through which the employee can successfully abuse his/her position. On the other hand, rationalization refers to the cognitive stage demanding the fraudster to justify the crime in a manner that is in line with his/her internal moral compass.

Occurrence of CWB

According to Yao, Fan, Guo & Li (2014), CWB arises from a mutual decision by employees to act in ways that are contrary to the defined goals and aims by their employer. Some of the driving force behind CWB includes environmental reasons, poor training and personality traits among external factors. For example, perceptions of fairness within the organization lead to CWB. In such situations where departmental heads are perceived to be unfair, there is a probability for the employee come up with a potential matter from the same.

Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB)

Among the suggested theories of understanding individual behavior, TPB has emerged to be the most studied and applied theory. TPB has been widely applied, with application in studying individual behavior, particularly in predicting one’s intention and behavior towards the actual way of conduct. TPB, proposed by Ajzen, developed from the theory of reasoned action (TRA) aimed at examining external factors on an individual’s control that may end up influencing intentions and behaviors. According to Greenslade & White (2005), TPB postulates that for a naturally minimal volitional behavior, considerations should be directed at the degree by which various elements inhibit or facilitate the ability of an individual to behave so. In this case, perceived control (PC) is the prime determinant of behavior, and further examined through the subjective norm.

PC arises from one’s perception of the probability of facilitating or constraining factors may come into play and how they can impact on the ease or difficulty of conducting self in a given way. High levels of PC results into more intentions, leading high probability of engaging in the behavior, with the reverse being true for the case of less PC. Generally, it is the attitudes, subjective norms and the PC that impact on one’s intention to engage in the CWB, since they all determine one’s behavior at the workplace.

Reducing CWB at Work

According to Ahmed & Khan (2016), one of the best ways of reducing CWB at work is coming up with the ethical representation of the respective employee. With this approach, a simple written exam would be more relevant. For example, during the process of recruiting staffs who will be engaging the public in their daily duties, it’s important to interrogate their levels of integrity and honesty. Furthermore, when going through references, it’s important to call the listed ones rather than relying on their recommendation letters. Engaging prior employers can help a facility manager to gain insight into the previous or past behavior of an applicant.

Another approach to reducing CWB at workplace is understanding employee perceptions. A better way of engaging involvement by the employees is establishing a work environment characterized with policies that are quite fair and equitable, while at the same time showing respect to employees. Positive perceptions of the staff members will always hold the key to CWB in the entire organization. However, employers need to understand that employers may not necessarily voice their feelings, hence the need for observing body language and other relevant behaviors.


CWB basically entails behaviors by employees that are intended to cause harm to the company or the individuals in it, including staff members and customers. Some of the relevant factors that leading to CWB at work are individual personality traits and FMM with other explanations best understood through DT. Among the situational factors impacting on the same are organizational injustice, interpersonal conflicts and job satisfaction and FT. Among the better approach of reducing CWB at work include an ethical representation of the respective employee and understanding employee perceptions.



















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