Last month, I-O Psychologists met in California to share the latest cutting-edge research. The 31st annual conference of the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology (SIOP) was a huge success. We’ve partnered with numerous SIOP presenters, and they’ve provided us with the nitty-gritty on some of the very best presentations, which we now offer to you in a multi-part series.
Researchers often study counterproductive work behavior, which means employees’ bad behavior at work that is deviant or harmful to the company. But companies can also be harmed by employees’ bad behavior off-the-job, called off-duty deviance (ODD). This can include anything from socially unacceptable noncriminal behavior, like bullying on social media, to downright criminal behavior, like felonies or drug use. The negative impact of ODD can be severe, not only on employment outcomes, but also on the company’s reputation. What are companies doing to protect their valuable reputations?
Workplace ostracism is a type of mistreatment that occurs when someone is made to feel excluded from the group of employees whom he or she works with. Past research seems to be conflicting on what we can expect when this happens. Sometimes, research shows that ostracized employees will become less interested in helping their organization and will cut back on organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) in response. This means that they will reduce activities that are not part of their formal job descriptions. On the other hand, some research shows that ostracized employees will increase pro-social behavior, meaning they will try harder to do things that will allow them to become accepted by the group. So which is it? Will ostracized employees do more or less to help others at work?
At some point, we’ve all met a jerk at work. These people may have reckless abandon for the feelings of others. They may be loud, rude, obnoxious, tactless, crass, or forceful. On the other hand, we sometimes see or hear examples of jerks achieving renowned success in the business world. Successful jerks are oftentimes known for their originality and creativity, and for their entrepreneurial achievement. New research (Hunter & Cushenbery, 2015) explores whether being a jerk has certain advantages, or if the so-called benefits of being a jerk are really just a lot of hot air.
Mindfulness is a psychological state that occurs when a person is completely in-the-moment and experiences a heightened sense of focus and awareness. When people find themselves in this state, they are less likely to take things personally or react automatically without thinking. Organizations are becoming interested in mindfulness because it has been shown to help boost self-control (e.g. people might be less reactionary towards that trying co-worker) and because it leads to increased performance. In light of this, the authors of this study (Long & Christian, 2015) explored whether mindfulness helps employees thwart the desire to “get back” at others when they felt wronged. This is important because employee retaliation can be costly to an organization and detrimental to smooth functioning.
Organizations have seen a drastic increase in the amount of workplace incivility that employees experience on a weekly basis. Way back in in 1998, research revealed that 25% of employees experienced rudeness in the workplace at least once a week. A decade later, nearly 50% of employees reported experiencing incivility in the workplace at least once per week. Incivility is formally defined as “insensitive behavior that displays a lack of regard for others” (Anderson & Pearson, 1999), and is very costly for organizations as it is related to decreased performance and creativity, as well as increased employee turnover.
Narcissistic leaders can bring down an organization even when they are trying to build it up. Work by Galvin, Lange, and Ashforth (2015) uses extant organizational research findings to propose a new theory that may explain why this is so. They say that something called narcissistic organizational identification is to blame, and they demonstrate several ways that it happens and discuss how we can make sure this phenomenon doesn’t end up ruining businesses.
Unethical employees can plague a workplace, costing companies money as well as their reputations. But organizations don’t always have fool-proof ways to combat unethical behavior. New research by Kouchaki and Wareham (2015) has identified one type of workplace activity that may lead employees to increase unethical behavior. Using state-of-the-art equipment, they were able to measure physiological changes in certain employees that may have caused them to act unethically. So what is the culprit? What makes certain employees act unethically?
A common belief in the workplace is that if managers make decisions in a fair way (procedural justice), then employees will be happier and organizational outcomes will be positive. Both the research literature and common sense indicate that managers should be fair, but a recent study by Khan, Quratulain, and Bell (2014) suggests that being fair may not be enough. It appears that fairness doesn’t always lead to good behavior by employees.
Smart employees tend to be better at doing their jobs. This is considered one of the most important findings in the history of I-O research. Meta-analysis, which is a method of compiling results from many different researchers and studies, has shown that intelligence (or general mental ability) is associated with better job performance for basically any job. But there are other important components that make organizations successful besides narrowly-defined task performance (parts of a job that are in the job description). New research (Gonzalez-Mulé, Mount, & Oh, 2014) investigates whether intelligence can also predict other measures of workplace success.
When employees engage in unethical behavior, organizations suffer. For example, employee theft or dishonesty can hurt organizations both internally and in terms of public reputation. New research (Welsh, Ellis, Christian, & Mai, 2014) has identified several key links in understanding the dynamics that lead to employee deception, which is a type of unethical behavior.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable rise in bullying, and the workplace is no exception. In fact, it has become such a pervasive issue, with such profound effects, that it is considered an extreme threat to the health and wellness of all businesses. Many argue that bullying is not only the newest form of discrimination in the workplace, but that it should also be recognized as a form of corruption.
Supervisor anger is a common workplace problem. This can include a supervisor who is angered too easily or a situation when the supervisor’s anger is disproportional to the situation at hand. This study explores the true reasons behind this anger, hypothesizing that a history of family aggression is the root of angry reactions and abusive supervision.
High Performers are defined as the group of talented employees that increase both team and organizational performance.
Previous research has suggested that individuals high on cognitive ability are more likely to experience workplace victimization, and High Performers might be the target of interpersonal harm.
The current study by Eugune Kim and Theresa Glomb extends this line of research by examining the extent to which High Performers are victimized due to group members’ envy, and whether work group identification can reduce this potential negative consequence of high performance.
Both managers and employees sometimes act inappropriately in the workplace. For example, managers can excessively yell at, ridicule, or make fun of those working for them. We’ll refer to this as abusive supervision.
Similarly, employees can deliberately break rules and ignore norms, harming the organization they work for in the process. We’ll refer to this as organizational defiance.
Researchers have always believed that abusive supervision and organizational defiance often seem to occur in the same workplaces. But which one is the cause, and which one is the result?
A pair of researchers recently set out to examine how certain people use social media at work, and how that impacted their performance.
Their survey of individuals across various industries and jobs revealed various ways that people believe social media at work helps and harms their performance. The researchers then conducted a series of studies in developing a questionnaire for measuring social media behaviors, only one of which will be the focus for this review.
Have you ever encountered a situation where a colleague purposely withheld pertinent information? How did that change your interactions with them, or the dynamics within the office?
A recent study addresses the topic of Knowledge Hiding, and how consciously withholding information can affect both trust and creativity.
The act of hiding knowledge leads to what the researchers describe as “the distrust loop.” In this cycle, employees who intentionally hide information lose the trust of their peers. In order to impart a sense of justice, the effected peers will then withhold information from the knowledge hiders. This, in turn, affects the knowledge hider’s ability to collaborate effectively and generate creative ideas.
There has been a surge of interest in research on employee victimization in the last few years, both because the phenomenon is on the rise and because of the negative effects it has on both a personal and organizational level. Employee victimization has many causes and takes many forms, from aggressive incivility and bullying to general mistreatment.
Although previous studies investigated the situational and personal factors that precipitate victimization, little research has been focused on the behaviors that may lead to someone getting targeted.
Many of us can’t imagine going a day without our caffeine of choice—coffee, energy drinks, tea, soda, or any number of others. A recent study cited in this article claims that 90% of Americans ingest some form of caffeine daily in order to overcome the effects of sleep loss. But did you know that caffeine could also help you maintain better self-control?
Abusive supervision is a serious issue, and much more prevalent than you might realize.
A lot of research has been done on this topic– partly because it is on the increase, but also because of its devastating effects on morale and productivity.
In looking at personality and the choice of coping strategies, new research reveals insights that can help employees maintain performance while surviving an abusive supervisor.
High performers– that is, employees who work harder and accomplish more than the average– are typically highly valued by employers. Unfortunately, this advanced performance level can cause overachievers to be noticed and even targeted for bullying by their peers, who may be envious of the attention or rewards they’re given.
Such victimization can result in decreased performance, or increased turnover, in an organization as high performers that feel targeted move on to other employment opportunities.
Dealing with rude customers is a universal truth to working in service positions. We’ve all been there, standing awkwardly in the checkout lane as a red-faced customer furiously berates an employee for some perceived injustice or inconvenience. Intriguingly, how employees react to this rude behavior might be influenced by cultural values.
When we think of powerful leaders, we often imagine people who can get others to do what they wish. After all, power and leadership, by definition, involve the capacity to control or influence the behaviors of others. However, this study by Tost and Larrick shows that having more powerful leaders can actually harm team performance.
Good leads to more good, right? It is generally thought that creating a positive environment in the workplace leads to increased productivity for everyone. Surprisingly though, there comes a point when positivity in the workplace can actually harm your work environment and result in unfavorable outcomes.
Some people suffer from the Ostrich Problem. This problem occurs whenever someone knowingly shies away from information that would help them track progress toward a set goal. Despite all the evidence that supports the value of tracking workplace performance, some would simply rather bury their heads in the sand and pretend that everything is hunky dory. These employees prefer not to monitor their progress towards goals set by the organization, even though setting goals and monitoring them is central to good project management, allowing an organization to successfully hit targets. Why then is it that certain people categorically avoid tracking their progress in terms of achieving goals?
Topic: Counter-Productive Work Behavior, Leadership, Job Performance
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (January, 2013)
Article: Blaming the Organization for Abusive Supervision: The Roles of Perceived Organizational Support and Supervisor’s Organizational Embodiment
Authors: M.K. Shoss, R. Eisenberger, S.L.D. Restubog, T.J. Zagenczyk
Reviewed By: Ben Sher, M.A.
Counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs) occur when employees do things that go against organizational goals. For example, stealing, bullying, unnecessary absence, swivel chair racing, beer pong in the break room, and assaulting the copy machine with a baseball bat when it is out of toner are all classified as counterproductive work behaviors. I-O psychology research has typically tried to predict which type of person will engage in these devious behaviors. However, a recent study by Shoss, et al. (2013) has found that certain organizations may also be causing an increase in bad behavior.
Topic: Leadership, Counter-Productive Work Behavior
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (in press)
Article: Effects of Leadership Consideration and Structure on Employee Perceptions of Justice and Counterproductive Work Behavior
Authors: Brian C. Holtz & Crystal M. Harold
Reviewed By: Thaddeus Rada
Although research on a variety of leadership “types,” such as charismatic and visionary leaders, has flourished in recent years, there has also been a return to a basic distinction that was made in the leadership literature many years ago: the distinction between consideration and initiating structure. Consideration refers to leaders’ “people-oriented” behaviors, such as showing respect for followers and facilitating group cohesiveness. Initiating structure refers to clarifying roles, establishing rules, and providing a framework for effective group and individual performance. These dimensions are not mutually exclusive, and some leaders may be high on both, others low on both, and still others high on one and low on the other. With interest in these dimensions increasing, a recent study examined them in relation to two important outcomes: employee perceptions of justice, and counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs).
Topic: Counter-Productive Work Behavior, Work-Life Balance, Stress
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (MAY 2012)
Article: You cannot leave it at the office: Spillover and crossover of coworker incivility
Authors: M. Ferguson
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin
Do you have a coworker who is rude to you? Ignores you? Is condescending to you? If so, that’s called coworker incivility and it is probably not only affecting your satisfaction with and performance at work, but also your home life.
In a recent study, Meredith Ferguson investigated if and how coworker incivility affects the marital satisfaction of both the target of workplace incivility and the target’s partner. She was also interested in the role that stress might play in the spillover effects from coworker incivility.
Topic: Assessment, Personality, Ethics, Counter-Productive Work Behavior, Workplace Deviance
Publication: Personnel Psychology (SPRING 2012)
Article: Why employees do bad things: Moral disengagement and unethical organizational behavior
Authors: Celia Moore, James R. Detert, Linda Klebe Treviño, Vicki L. Baker, & David M. Mayer
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin
Organizations obviously want their employees to be ethical. While there are existing measures that are used to predict who will act immorally, the authors of this paper proposed a new construct that they called an individual’s propensity to morally disengage – an individual difference in how people think about ethical decisions and behavior that allows them to act unethically without feeling bad about it.
Topic: Counter-Productive Work Behavior, Personality
Publication: Personnel Psychology, 64, 2 (Summer 2011)
Article: Reconsidering the Dispositional Basis of Counterproductive Work Behavior: The Role of Aberrant Personality
Authors: Wu, J. & Lebreton, J. M.
Reviewed By: Thaddeus Rad
Counterproductive work behavior (CWB) remains a heavily-researched area in I-O psychology. CWBs can take a variety of forms, from relatively minor acts of workplace theft to dramatic outbursts of workplace violence. Regardless of who they target or how severe they might be, CWBs are always a negative phenomenon, and organizations have a vested interest in predicting the likelihood that employees (or applicants) might engage in these behaviors. Traditionally, work linking personality characteristics to CWBs has been done using common personality frameworks, such as the Big 5. However, previous research has generated mixed findings in terms of how well these “common” personality traits predict CWBs. As such, Wu and Lebreton suggest that it may be more effective to attempt to predict an individual’s likelihood of engaging in CWBs by measuring aberrant personality profiles. In their paper, Wu and Lebreton theoretically examine the links between CWBs and a number of aberrant personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.
Topic: Counter-Productive Work Behavior, Fairness, Trust, Workplace Deviance
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (WINTER 2010)
Article: Psychological contracts and counterproductive work behaviors: employee responses to transactional and relational breach
Authors: J.M. Jensen, R.A. Opland, and A.M. Ryan
Reviewed By: Allison B. Siminovsky
Counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs) are those actions undertaken by the employee that are detrimental to the overall work environment. The reasons for engaging in such behaviors and the means of expressing them differ from situation to situation, and as a result it can be difficult for organizations to pinpoint exactly what the causes of CWBs may be. This article seeks to find antecedents for CWBs in organizational breaches of the psychological contract, or the employee’s inherent expectations about how the reciprocal relationship between employer and employee ought to be. In other words, does deviant workplace behavior result from perceived organizational injustices and mistreatment?
Publication: Journal of Management (SEP)
Article: Organizational tenure and job performance
Authors: T.W.H. Ng and D.C. Feldman
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger
It is often intuited that employees who remain in an organization longer gain more knowledge of their job and the organization and thus perform at a higher level than employees with less tenure. Indeed, it’s no secret that organizational tenure is common factor considered in administrative decisions such as offering promotions and awarding raises and other fringe benefits (e.g., pensions, vacation days). For many of us, anecdotal evidence probably confirms the assumption that as tenure within the organization increases, so does performance. But what does the research say?
Topic: Counter-Productive Work Behavior
Publication: Academy of Management Journal
Article: The normalization of deviant
organizational practices: Wage arrears in Russia, 1991-98
Authors: Earle, Spicer, & Peter
Reviewed By: Katie Bachman
…And by “apple,” I mean “organization”. Lately, have you found yourself wondering how they got away with it for so long (I’m lookin’ at you, Wall Street)? Have you wondered why corruption seems to be an industry norm instead of just one corrupt organization? Why didn’t anyone stop them? If it seems like all the organizations are in it together, you’re kind of right.
Topic: Counterproductive Work Behavior
Publication: Applied Psychology: An International Review (JAN 2010)
Article: Illegitimate tasks and counterproductive work behavior
Authors: N.K. Semmer, F. Tschan, L.L. Meier, S. Facchin, & N. Jacobshagen
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger
The research on counterproductive work behavior (CWB) suggests that it often represents a form of retaliation in response to unfairness. In other words, when employees perceive unfairness in the workplace, they get even by engaging in behaviors that damage the organization or its employees.
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.
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).
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.