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Counterproductive Work Behaviours

Counterproductive Work Behaviours: It’s about so much more than a missing box of the “good pens”! 


Employee: Counterproductive work behaviours lower your physical and mental health, decrease your job satisfaction and can put you at higher risk of burnout. 


Employer: Counterproductive work behaviours have direct costs to the organization (e.g. wasted resources, stolen material, etc.), as well as, indirect costs like decreased performance and organizational commitment; increased stress and burnout.  


Counterproductive Work Behaviours (CWB) are intentional employee behaviours that are harmful to the organization and/or its’ members, CWBs can be minor or serious forms of deviant behaviour (e.g. wasting resources, theft, incivility, harassment, etc.). Research has shown that many issues lead to CWBs including stress, conflict at work, work family conflict, workplace boredom (i.e. monotonous jobs, employee over qualification), and/or feelings of being wronged in some way (i.e. justice perceptions are violated). Certain people are more likely to engage in CWBs, people with generally negative attitudes (i.e. high in negative affect), low in integrity, who are less agreeable and less conscientious. Screening these individual out during the selection process, is one way to foster a healthy work environment with fewer CWBs. One of the reasons CWB can be so toxic is that CWB lead to more CWB causing a negative spiral. For this reason, it is very important that organizations take an active role in minimizing CWB and the issues contributing to them in their work place. Minimizing the stressors employees are exposed to (e.g. keeping work load and pace reasonable), having a dispute management system to ensure conflict does not escalates (this should include conflict resolution training for employees) and cross training/job variety (to avoid job boredom) are some additional steps that can manage CWBs. Maintaining an open dialogue with employees, having clear policies and procedure for decision making and distributing resources fairly can all improve perceptions of justice and reduce CWB. Like the title said it’s about so much more than a box of missing pens! 

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