Team IIBP Anveshan, Issue 31, Volume 4

There is no doubt that we are all working as a means of achieving something called a reward or appreciation for what we are doing. Depending on the situation, this reward can take the form of a good salary, a simple appreciation, or a reinforcement of behaviour. In simple words, productive behaviour which is advantageous to the organization is appreciated.  But a coin has two sides. We are aware of one side but it is important to concentrate on the other side. This another side is opposite of productive behaviour i.e. ‘counterproductive work behaviour’.

A counterproductive work behaviour is an employee behaviour which causes harm to the workplace and organization. This behaviour is not about unconscious or accidental behaviours but it is more about conscious or deliberate actions against the goals of the company.

It is important to identify and deal with CWB because According to the FBI, 60% of employees would steal from their employers if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. Another survey by California Restaurant Association shows that 95% of all businesses encounter some form of theft. As we can see, there are many forms of CWB that can harm workplace and organization so we can’t ignore this behaviour because it will create toxic work environment. And that is why it is important not to overlook counterproductive behaviours in the workplace. Also, it is important to keep in mind that not every counterproductive behaviour is intentional, but they are always conscious.

The counterproductive work behaviour comes under four categories:

  1. Production deviance
  2. Property deviance
  3. Political deviance
  4. Personal aggression

Production deviance can be tardiness or goldbricking, property deviance can be theft or sabotage of equipment, political deviance is about gossiping or favouritism, personal aggression can be in the form of sexual harassment or workplace bullying.

The possible reasons behind counterproductive work behaviour would be individual differences, toxic work environment, lack of training, poor time management, emotional instability, unfair reward allocation or promotion, major organizational changes, personal life changes, impulsive behaviour, etc. In the workplace, fairness can have a significant effect on employee’s behaviours, performance and motivation. Employees who are treated unfairly are more prone to show quirky behaviour like damaging company property or being abusive to co-workers.

The general CWB-OCB emotion model suggests that emotion plays vital role in CWB and OCB. A model emphasizes that the environment is perceived and appraised by individuals, but that appraisal is affected by their baseline emotional state, perceptions of control over the situation, and personality traits. It is important to distinguish between objective and perceived environments. People often perceive situations differently, so situations that cause emotional responses in one person may not cause them in another. There are several factors to consider, such as the context and individual differences, as well as the emotional state of the individual. Perception of situations can be influenced both by control over the situation and by individual personality. A person’s personality also influences their emotional thresholds. Individuals with high trait anger or anxiety may react differently to the same perceived situation than people with low trait anger or anxiety. An individual’s threshold is also affected by their psychological makeup. In conclusion, both control and personality influence whether emotions lead to CWB or OCB. In this way, counterproductive work behaviour is a result of negative emotions and organizational citizenship behaviour is a result of positive emotions toward the organization.

In this chaotic situation, it is significant to have leaders who can handle the counter productive work behaviour excellently. It is possible for autocratic leaders to control a situation and get work done, but because of their ordering, there is a possibility that employees will engage in counterproductive work behaviour. So it is better to use different leadership styles depending on the situation. Creating change is not an easy process! It takes time to change because it’s a gradual process. But a good leader and employees with high motivation and determination can change the behaviour and demolish the toxicity.

We can’t deny the fact that leadership changes with every different leader and the reason behind this would be ‘individual differences’. We can try to prevent counterproductive behaviour at work or we can create policies which can help in reducing counterproductive work behaviour but the policies or different rules will not work if the employees or managers are unaware of how and why they behave this way.

I believe that organizations should concentrate on this issue, and they should train their employees and managers on the same level. Before hiring, they can conduct assessments, which can include a detailed interview based on a candidate’s past experiences (Behavioural Event Interview or Critical Incident Interview). So that, it would be easier for employer to identify his/her skills, knowledge along with his/her personality. Another significant factor which plays an important role in the performance or behaviour of an employee is ‘emotional intelligence ‘. It’s very important that an employee should perform well at work. He/she should be skilled, intelligent and knowledgeable but we have to focus on whether the manager and employees are emotionally intelligent or not. Because if a person is intelligent it will be helpful for him/her to perform different tasks and activities but if the employees or managers are emotionally intelligent then it will be helpful for them to digest the failure, to face difficult situations, to handle stressful situations at work. In this way, organization should acknowledge the significance of these little factors that can enhance the performance and reduce the counterproductive work behaviour.

Lastly, I remember a quote by James Cash Penny,” The five separate fingers are five independent units. Close them and the fist multiplies strength. This is organization.”




1- Spector, Paul & Fox, Suzy. (2002). An Emotion-Centered Model of Voluntary Work Behavior. Human Resource Management Review – HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT REV. 12. 269-292. 10.1016/S1053-4822(02)00049-9.






About the Author.

Ms. Akshata Bapat, is currently pursuing master’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from K.J. Somaiya College of Arts and Commerce, Vidyavhar. She is passionate about research. She has participated in several research competitions and has got silver medal from the University of Mumbai for her research project.