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Counterproductive Work Behaviors Published: Sunday, November 17, 2002 By: Dr. Manuel Ńngel Morales

From a strictly economic viewpoint, work is about the production of goods or services, and the workplace is a setting in which this production occurs. Nevertheless, the workplace is a microcosm of society in which all sorts of psychological dramas unfold. People bring with them not only a set of values developed over a lifetime, but also personal and family issues that are on their minds and affect their work positively or negatively. While many people have a strong work ethic that emphasizes hard and intelligent work, honesty, and loyalty to the organization, others view the institution as a location for exploitation and some kind of selfishness behaviors.

Some people have misused alcohol and drugs for years, others have short term difficulties adjusting to a divorce, problems with their children, the death of a family member, or other personal crises. Other people are dissatisfied with work that is routine, boring or stressful, lacks opportunities for growth, or pays poorly and they decide to take out their dissatisfaction on the organization.

Many of the mentioned situations can lead to problems of counterproductive behavior at work. Goofing off, not meeting responsibilities in a timely way, doing sloppy work, being uncooperative with colleagues or customers, and harassing other people are some examples of behaviors that are detrimental to organizational performance.

The counter productive behavior is any action that interferes with the organizationís primary purpose, which generally is to produce a particular good or service in a way that results in a benefit for owners, employees and the customers.

There is a lot of research establishing that counterproductive behavior at work falls into one of three categories. Most people become at least temporarily dissatisfied at some time or another. People who engage in solving the problem that led to their dissatisfaction return to being satisfied and donít proceed to counterproductive behavior. Those who canít, wonít or donít solve the problem leading to dissatisfaction tend to engage in one of three categories of counter productive behavior: Retaliation (against coworkers, customers or the organization); Neglect (of their work and of standards), and Exit (looking for ways to leave the organization.)

The counter productive behaviors can be directed against the organization or individuals. Production deviance is a form of neglect directed at the organization and consist of working slowly or reducing the pace of performance, leaving early or wasting resources. Property deviance is a more costly category of organizational retaliation that includes harming the workplace in its physical, technological or property sense.

Counterproductive behavior may also be directed at individuals rather than the organization, usually in the form of retaliatory behavior. Political deviance takes the form of showing favoritism, gossiping, blaming people for things they didnít do, and other more destructive forms of backstabbing. Personal aggression describes even more serious forms of interpersonal deviance, such as verbal abuse of customers or fellow employees, and other forms of dysfunctional or violent behaviors. Effective management practices are needed inside organizations in order to create a positive work environment that will make counterproductive behavior less likely. 

 


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