Workplace Deviance

Workplace deviance refers to intentional acts initiated by employees that violate norms of the organization and have the potential to harm the organization or its members (Bennett & Robinson, 2003).

Workplace deviance captures a wide range of potentially harmful behaviors ranging from minor to more serious form:

  • directed either at individuals, as reflected in behavior such as harassment, back-stabbing, or physical aggression;
  • or directed at the organization, as reflected in behavior such as theft, sabotage, or absenteeism.

The yearly costs of deviance in the USA are staggering:

  • $4.2 billion for violence (Bensimon, 1997),
  • $50 billion for employee theft and fraud (Sandberg, 2003), and
  • $54 billion for corporate cyberloafing (Conlin, 2000).

Add to this the costs of sabotage and slowed productivity, and it becomes obvious that organizational deviance constitutes an extremely serious problem for employees, employers and society.

Much has been learned about types of deviance and their antecedents and consequences, but less is known about how misbehavior might be reduced. Researchers have studied organizational deviance as an effect of

  1. frustration, perceived injustice and other reactions to organizational experiences
  2. personality traits such as dispositional aggressiveness and anger, and
  3. norms, modeling and other aspects of social context.

These antecedents suggest that there are a number of ways that deviance might be reduced in the workplace.

For instance, selection processes may be used to screen for hostile applicants, abusive supervision might be ameliorated by careful training, and performance management systems may be designed to apply clear and apt consequences for deviant acts.

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    Research data for this work have been adapted from the manual:
  1. Research Companion to the Dysfunctional Workplace: Management Challenges and ... By Janice Langan-Fox, Cary L. Cooper, Richard J. Klimoski.