Employee behaviors can be classified into those that benefit the organization and those that hurt it. Most of our psychological research has focused on the former, concentrating on how we can enhance performance. However, from the organizational point of view, there exists a negative side to behavior, in that often employees commit acts that can be detrimental. Of course, in some cases what is detrimental to the organization can benefit the individual. In recent years attention has been directed toward understanding this other type of behavior.

Counterproductive behavior (from the organization's perspective) includes aggression, hostility, sabotage, theft, violence, and withholding of output. It has been referred to by various authors/researchers as antisocial, counterproductive, deviance, and organizational aggression. The common thread is that these behaviors are committed by employees and they hurt their employers. In some circumstances, various forms of behavior (e.g., sabotage or theft) can have the same goal and purpose of retaliating against the employer for real or imagined injustices. In other cases, different behaviors can be committed for different reasons. For example, theft can be committed out of real need by a low paid employee with a sick child, or to restore equity by an employee who has lost a benefit. Thus the counterproductive concept is useful as a way to classify a variety of actions, but it should not be considered a unitary construct.

Bibliography of research studies/sources

Links, mostly dealing with workplace violence

Copyright Paul E. Spector, All rights reserved, February 8, 2002.