Although the most logical thing is to think that all workers will always act in accordance with the interests of the company, this is not always the case.
Let’s find out what are counterproductive behaviors at work, What characterizes this type of behavior, what are the contexts in which it occurs and who are the people most likely to engage in.
What are the counterproductive behaviors at work?
Counterproductive behaviors at work are those the behaviors that certain employees exercise, consciously and deliberately, and which clash head-on with the interests of the company, Thus generating damage or loss in some of its levels. This behavior can be an isolated event or a constant that ends up being very serious numbers in terms of the costs of repairing the damage caused.
Depending on the type of conduct and the intensity of the sabotage carried out by the employee, the company may have to deal with an unforeseen economic event, either directly, as it must replace or repair items that have been damaged by the behavior. . of the worker in question, or indirectly, so that he stops generating a certain wealth. Both cases involve a loss which causes damage to the business.
I it’s not just about economic lossesBut counterproductive behavior at work also poses serious reputational issues, as having employees who deliberately boycott company actions is an obvious stain on the brand, and should be allocated more resources to regain the brand image that was calamitous acts.
Another of the damage these actions can cause is the loss of very valuable team members because it is possible that employees who engaged in counterproductive behaviors at work, were previously highly effective people and would bring great value to the company through their outstanding work. The reasons that could lead to such a drastic change in attitude will be explored later.
Finally, another of the negative effects that can lead to counterproductive behavior at work is the legal repercussions, because if the company manages to prove that one of its employees acted with the aim of harming the company, they will probably choose to prosecute and bring him to justice, so that justice can impose the corresponding sanction on him. But this scenario is yet another setback for the company, which could have been avoided.
Types of counterproductive behavior at work
These behaviors can be classified into different types, depending on their nature. Let’s take a closer look.
The first of the types of counterproductive behavior at work that we have already anticipated is theft. Obviously, there are diplomas, since this category ranges from theft of a pen or other office supplies, to theft of money right out of the box. The damage to the business will depend on the value of the theft, but it should be remembered that in the end, stealing is stealing, and such action is reprehensible.
To give you an idea, according to research, employee thefts mean a loss of $ 40,000,000 to US businesses every year. This is a significant figure and allows us to have a better perspective to understand the extent of this type of problem.
The second type of counterproductive behavior at work is that of sabotage. This conduct deliberately implies damage or destroy company hardware, or interfere with less efficient processes in any way. Addressing the question of ethics, the people who carry out these actions sometimes consider that they are fully justified.
In order to better understand it, we will give an example. Imagine an office worker deliberately dropping coffee on the computer and causing it to crash beyond repair. At first, you would think that his behavior was only trying to hurt him, but his reasoning might be that this computer was already very old, constantly had errors, and his boss had not provided him with a new one.
Thus, from an ethical point of view, the person would think that his behavior would not be sabotage as such, because he needed a computer in good working order and therefore to be more efficient. The reality is that the company has incurred an unforeseen cost due to a deliberate action by the employee, So this would enter into counterproductive behaviors at work.
No need to take sabotage lightly. In conjunction with burglaries and other types of corporate fraud by internal staff, it is estimated that these conducts generate 10% to 20% of the total number of annual corporate bankruptcies in the United States, so these are factors to consider. keep in mind. , and companies should put in place measures and awareness programs to prevent them, wherever possible.
3. Substance use
We are entering a different field in counterproductive behavior at work, and that is the next item on the list refers to the use of toxic substances, such as alcohol and drugs, during working hours. , or before, always that the effects are located in the working time of the individual. It is an invisible problem, but very serious for some companies.
This type of behavior can result in losses of around $ 30 million per year in all US companies as it leads to an accumulation of loss of worker efficiency which ends up affecting the processes of the organization and therefore also its results (and its benefits).
4. Time out
The last of the types of counterproductive behavior at work would be this it has to do with inactivity during the working day, Either in the form of unjustified absenteeism in the workplace, more abundant and prolonged breaks than marked by company rules or the performance of other tasks outside the company during working time like browsing web pages for personal purposes or constantly reviewing your cell phone.
It is a working time in which the activity which in principle should be carried out is not carried out and which therefore supposes a remarkable reduction in the productivity of the employee, making it more and more difficult to obtain marked successes. .
Profile of the transgressor
It is essential that companies are clear on the profile of the worker likely to have counterproductive behaviors at work and thus be able to anticipate these malicious actions, thus avoiding the terrible repercussions that we have known in the previous point. It does not always have to have the same characteristics, but certain qualities are often repeated in these individuals.
The first factor that usually appears is the lack of empathy, And it is understood that workers who try to boycott their own workplace, in general, must have a low level of empathy, because they do not understand the needs of the company or do not identify them as their own, although they are part of it. On the contrary, they are acting against his interests, which in the end would also harm himself.
However, research shows that these people don’t always have low levels of empathy, let alone. In some cases, employees who engage in counterproductive behaviors at work have a high rate of empathy. So how do you explain this? Here’s another factor, which is ethics, and it’s a very personal thing.
Point is, in the eyes of the person, the actions they perform may be perfectly ethical. If your moral code or your way of perceiving reality makes you understand that your counterproductive behaviors at work are in fact fully justified behaviors, you will have no ethical problem in performing them, because it will not be a clash of beliefs. .
This ethical justification can be real, because we believe that actions are not harmful, or that they pursue a greater good, or it can even be constructed as a form of self-regulation of the individual. In this case, you will adapt your beliefs to the conduct performed, so that there is no discrepancy that would cause discomfort. This is precisely what is called cognitive dissonance.
Finally, there is an important factor that should never be forgotten: boredom or lack of motivation. Certain behaviors, such as those we have seen related to downtime, excessive personal telephone requests, etc., are simply and clearly due to the fact that the worker is very unmotivated about his job and constantly seeks to escape it by such actions. .
- Bruursema, K., Kessler, SR, Spector, PE (2011). Employees are badly bored: the relationship between boredom and counterproductive work behaviors. Work and stress. Taylor and Francis.
- Fox, S., Spector, PE, Goh, A., Bruursema, K., Kessler, SR (2012). The deviant citizen: measuring the potential positive relationships between counterproductive work behaviors and organizational citizenship behaviors. Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. Wiley Online Library.
- Omar, A., Vaamonde, JD, Uribe, H. (2012). Counterproductive behaviors at work: design and validation of a scale. Diversity: perspectives in psychology.