One Reason For Bad Behavior at Work

Counterproductive work behavior (CWB) means actions by employees 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 the exact cause of CWB. Researchers (Jensen et al., 2010) look for antecedents of CWB. They consider organizational breaches of the psychological contract, or the employee’s inherent expectations about how the relationship between employer and employee ought to be. In other words, does deviant workplace behavior result from perceived organizational injustices and mistreatment?


The study found that when employees experience a lost sense of their employers caring about them, they are most likely to engage in abuse behaviors, which include threatening and undermining one’s co-workers. Additionally, a likely retaliatory action in response to feeling a loss of power is the active decision to intentionally perform one’s job inadequately.


This study hints at potential motivations for certain types of negative behaviors that employees willfully engage in. It should be viewed as a guide to remind organizations to clearly discuss mutual goals and expectations with employees and to consistently ensure that employees feel as though they are being adequately rewarded.


Jensen, J., Opland, R., & Ryan, A. (2010). Psychological Contracts and Counterproductive Work Behaviors: Employee Responses to Transactional and Relational Breach. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25(4), 555-568.