Peer reactions to counterproductive work behavior

by Neff, Nicole L., Ph.D., THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, 2009, 171 pages; 3374527


Counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs) are phenomena that are routinely studied in Industrial Organizational Psychology. A CWB is defined as a voluntary behavior that “violates significant organizational norms and in doing so threatens the well-being of an organization, its members, or both” (Robinson & Bennett, 1995, p. 556). While much is known about what personality traits and situational variables can predict these incidents (e.g. Marcus & Schuler, 2004; Witt & Barrick, 2004), little is known about their consequences. Two studies, one vignette study with an organizational sample and one self-report study with a sample of employed students, were conducted to examine one consequence of CWBs, coworker reactions to CWBs. Reactions to CWB were studied in light of two variables associated with a CWB event, behavior serious and outcome severity. Behavior seriousness measured the actual behavior, or what an individual actually did. Outcome severity measured the consequences of the CWB, or the result of the individual’s behavior. These two variables were examined with three categories of reaction variables. Cognitive reactions were assessed with measurements of distributive and retributive justice. While distributive justice is a measure of one’s belief about fairness in regards to equity (Greenberg, 1984), retributive justice is a measure of how strongly one feels the individual committing the CWB should be punished (Vidmar, 2001). There was support for both behavior seriousness and outcome severity affecting retributive justice, but no support for the cognitive reaction of distributive justice. Negative emotions were also examined as a possible consequence of witnessing a coworker commit a CWB; however, none of the hypotheses regarding negative emotions were supported. Finally, behavioral reactions were examined in regards to speaking to the individual who committed the CWB about the incident, as well as articulated, latent, and displaced dissent (Graham, 1984; Kassing, 1998). While speaking to the coworker about the incident was not predicted by either behavior seriousness or outcome severity, the two CWB variables did display relationships with the dissent variables. While a priori hypotheses were made regarding articulated dissent, latent and displaced dissent were examined in an exploratory fashion. Articulated dissent, which was defined as informing one’s supervisor, or another organizational authority figure about the CWB was related to outcome severity in the vignette study. Latent dissent, or informing peers about the CWB, was predicted by behavior seriousness in the self report study. Displaced dissent, or telling an uninvolved third party, such as a friend or a spouse, was predicted by outcome severity in both the vignette and the self report study. This dissertation contributes to the literature by examining a novel aspect of CWBs, that of coworker reactions. Additionally, the variable of outcome severity was introduced to the Industrial Organizational literature on CWBs, and in the current set of studies, this variable was found to predict important outcomes, such as retributive justice perceptions, as well as organizational dissent.

AdviserJames L. Farr
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsOccupational psychology
Publication Number3374527

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