The Golden Rule: Be Sweet and No One Gets Hurt
Topic: Counterproductive Work Behavior
Publication: Personnel Psychology (SUMMER 2009)
Article: The Relations of Daily Counterproductive Workplace Behavior with Emotions, Situational Antecedents, and Personality Moderators: A Diary Study in Hong Kong
Authors: J. Yang, J.M. Diefendorff
Reviewed By: Katie Bachman
When workers are unhappy with their treatment at work, they tend to lash out. Surprising, I know. In my latest foray into the world of Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB) research, I encountered an article looking at interpersonal justice and its relation to all things CWB. In this case, the researchers found that when employees feel mistreated by their supervisors, they are likely to engage in interpersonal CWBs (e.g. being mean to coworkers). Think of this as a kick-the-dog phenomenon. On the other hand, when employees feel that their job roles are ambiguous or they feel mistreated by customers, they are more likely to engage in organizational CWBs (e.g. taking extra-long breaks). This is more of a d*nm-the-man approach.
These reactions are partially or fully due to negative feelings that those people or experiences invoke. A personal tendency toward negative emotions (i.e. high negative affect) exacerbates the relationship; however, high levels of conscientiousness and agreeableness mitigate the connection. So, you know, hire a happy and smart worker with an attitudinal bent toward enthusiasm and you’ve got yourself a winner.
As with any research that studies Counterproductive Work Behaviors with a self-report survey measure, these results should be taken with at least one full tablespoon of salt. The thing is, of the 23 counterproductive work behaviors (13 organizational CWBs and 10 interpersonal CWBs) that employees could report each day, the average worker only reported engaging in an average of .55 organizational CWBs and .36 interpersonal CWBs each day. That’s awfully low, but not unexpected. From a more practical standpoint, knowing that the connection exists when the reported outcomes are so low means that this is really something that merits attention. Make sure that your workers feel that they are being treated justly—it could be a little thing that pays off big.
Yang, J., & Diefendorff, J. M. (2009). The relations of daily counterproductive workplace behavior with emotions, situational antecedents, and personality moderators: A diary study in Hong Kong. Personnel Psychology, 62, 259-295.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Stress at Work
Topic: Citizenship Behavior, Counterproductive Work Behaviors
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (NOV 2009)
Article: Can “good” stressors spark “bad” behaviors? The mediating role of emotions in links of challenge and hindrance stressors with citizenship and counter productive behaviors
Authors: J.B. Rodell, T.A. Judge
Reviewed By: Katie Bachman
Research suggests that stress can come from good or bad sources (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000).
Challenge Stressors can serve as opportunities for growth, for example: you can be stressed because of job complexity (“now, WHAT am I supposed to do?”), workload (“I’ve got too much to do!”), and deadlines (Yikes! It’s due tomorrow!”).
Hindrance Stressors, on the other hand, can be caused by stress because of bureaucracy (“Just let me do my job”), role ambiguity (“Whose job is this, anyway”), and hassles (“Like I said, just let me do my job!).
While both can lead to negative outcomes like emotional exhaustion, challenge stressors have been linked to positive outcomes such as job satisfaction. Hindrance stressors, on the other hand, are pretty much all bad, being linked to withdrawal behaviors and turnover.
Knowing that stress exists in these different forms is well and good, but what’s more interesting is looking at how those stressors affect voluntary behavior on the job. While we can assume that good stressors (challenge) lead to good behaviors (i.e. citizenship behaviors) and bad stressors (hindrance) lead to bad behaviors (i.e. counterproductive behaviors), it appears that good stressors can also lead to bad behaviors. How, you ask? It seems that emotions come into play and mediate the relationship between stress and behavior.
In this study, challenge stressors were linked to two emotions: attentiveness and anxiety. Both were linked to citizenship behaviors; however, anxiety was also linked to counterproductive behaviors. Yikes! Here we’re seeing a good stressor with a bad outcome. Hindrance stressors were also linked to emotions, anger and anxiety, but in that case the outcome was only counterproductive behavior. So, although bad begets bad, good can beget good or bad. For organizations, this can have some important consequences. Although you want your workers to feel challenged in their work, you don’t want them to be so challenged that their resulting anxiety leads to behaviors that undermine the organization. And the more clearly you can remove those hindrances, the better off everyone – and the organization – will be.
Rodell, J. B., & Judge, T. A. (2009). Can “good” stressors spark “bad” behaviors?
The mediating role of emotions in links of challenge and hindrance stressors with citizenship and counterproductive behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94,1438-1451.
Tell Your Boss to Get Off the Web and Back to Work
Does your boss check his personal email or read websites featuring non-work-related information (such as the news or online shopping) more often than you? It’s likely according to the findings of Garrett and Danziger (2008). By conducting a phone survey (n=1,024), these researchers found that employees of higher status (measured by job autonomy, income, education, and job status) use the internet for personal reasons while on the job more often than those of lower status.
Garrett and Danziger also found that men and women differed slightly in the type of cyberslacking (also known as cyberloafing) performed. Men were more likely to use the internet for leisure-related surfing than women, but no differences in gender were found for engaging in non-work personal communications. What I find to be most interesting about this article is that its findings are contrary to the modern perception that lower-status employees spend more time cyberslacking than higher-status employees. Perhaps this is partially due to the fact that higher-status employees nowadays report less leisure time than lower-status employees. Maybe at higher levels, work time becomes vital for crossing certain personal agenda items off of the list.
Garrett and Danziger (p. 288) cite that this trend has reversed from the 1960s, when lower-status workers coveted the substantial amount of leisure time that came with those jobs held by high-status workers. One could look at the primary finding of this study (i.e., employees in higher-status jobs are more frequent cyberslackers) and become excited by the possibility that the relationship could work in the other direction . . . but I wouldn’t go as far as assuming that a low-level employee who cyberslacks to a significant degree is destined to reach a high-level position someday – in fact, watch out, because that’s a sure-fire way to get the boot before you get that next promotion. So, if you’re at work reading this right now, I’d suggest that you get back to your job. J