Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 16, Issue 38;   September 21, 2016: Counterproductive Knowledge Work Behavior

Counterproductive Knowledge Work Behavior

by

With the emergence of knowledge-oriented workplaces, counterproductive work behavior is taking on new forms that are rare or inherently impossible in workplaces where knowledge plays a less central role. Here are some examples.
Police line tape

Police line tape of the type often used at crime scenes. On August 29, 2016, Hengjun Chao, a former researcher at the Mount Sinai Medical School, shot the Dean of the school, Dennis Charney, and another man outside a deli in Chappaqua, New York. Chao was apparently seeking revenge for Charney's having fired him for academic and scientific misconduct in 2009.

Although it is rare for knowledge-based counterproductive workplace behavior to lead to more conventional forms, it does happen. Photo by Tony Webster courtesy Wikimedia.

Employee behavior harmful to the employer's legitimate interests is called Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB). Gruys and Sackett[1] have developed a typology of CWBs that have since been widely studied and researched. They are property theft or destruction; misuse of information, time, or resources; unsafe behavior; poor attendance; poor quality work; alcohol or drug use at work; and inappropriate verbal or physical action.

While most of these categories apply to knowledge workplaces, knowledge workplaces are sufficiently distinct that they are spawning their own forms of these CWBs. Although they can all be subsumed into the conventional CWB categories, recognizing them as distinctive forms is essential to detection and control. Responsible management of the assets and property of knowledge-oriented organizations therefore requires familiarity with CWBs in forms rarely seen in other workplaces. Here are some CWBs specific to the knowledge-oriented workplace.

Fabricated results
Intentionally producing information assets and presenting them as factual, when they are actually only conjectured or imagined, can be damaging in itself. But when additional developments are built on foundations that include fabrications, the result is an unreliable mixture of fact and fiction.
Organizational perfectionism
Although we usually regard perfectionism as a personal dysfunction, its organizational form can be damaging on a far greater scale. It can consume resources and delay the availability of results that could otherwise have produced significant advancements for both the organization and society at large.
Plagiarism
Plagiarists do expose their employers to significant liability for theft of intellectual property. But perhaps more widespread damage arises when undetected plagiarists are subsequently assessed as more capable and responsible than they actually are. Their peers suffer by comparison, and employers then make erroneous task and responsibility assignments that can lead to organizational catastrophes.
Poorly documented work products
Some knowledge Responsible management of the assets
and property of knowledge-oriented
organizations requires special knowledge
work is valuable only to the extent that its results can be reliably reproduced, maintained, inspected, or extended by people other than its originators. Documentation is thus at least as important as the results themselves. Some knowledge workers distort or withhold documentation as a "job security" strategy. Too often, the strategy is effective.
Specious attacks on the work of colleagues
Toxic forms of workplace politics often include specious attacks on colleagues. However, in the knowledge-based workplace, these attacks can occur in the domain of the organization's knowledge-based work products. Combatants can make specious claims about one another's work, which, if accepted by management, can lead to strategic choices that harm the organization and its customers.
Excessive elaboration
Sometimes we make our problems, and their solutions, more complex than they need to be. By substituting complexity for completeness, we seek to impress others with our prowess. Utility and value rarely follow. See "Abraham, Mark, and Henny," Point Lookout for April 3, 2002, for more.

Although these forms of CWBs are more easily described than controlled, control begins with recognition. Have you seen any of the counterproductive behaviors listed above? Go to top Top  Next issue: Favor Symmetric Virtual Meetings  Next Issue

[1]
Gruys, M. L., and Sackett, P. R. "Investigating the dimensionality of counterproductive work behavior". International Journal of Selection and Assessment, vol. 11:1, pp. 0-42, 2003

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenkGVUYWPhecKxiVanner@ChacLGfrwZoRrKqAGxHCoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Ethics at Work:

Two infants exchanging secretsYou Have to Promise Not to Tell a Soul
You're at lunch with one of your buddies, who's obviously upset. You ask why. "You have to promise not to tell a soul," is the response. You promise. And there the trouble begins.
The Bill of RightsEthical Influence: I
Influencing others can be difficult. Even more difficult is defining a set of approaches to influencing that almost all of us consider ethical. Here's a framework that makes a good starting point.
A horseEthical Influence: II
When we influence others as they're making tough decisions, it's easy to enter a gray area. How can we be certain that our influence isn't manipulation? How can we influence others ethically?
Archibald Cox, Special Watergate ProsecutorDifficult Decisions
Some decisions are difficult because they trigger us emotionally. They involve conflicts of interest, yielding to undesirable realities, or possibly pain and suffering for the deciders or for others. How can we make these emotionally difficult decisions with greater clarity and better outcomes?
Duma, a wolf at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, rolls to capture a scent atop a moundTelephonic Deceptions: II
Deception at work probably wasn't invented at work. Most likely it is a continuation of deception in the rest of life. But the technologies of the modern workplace offer new opportunities to practice the art. Here's Part II of a handy guide for telephonic self-defense.

See also Ethics at Work and Devious Political Tactics for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Five almondsComing October 25: Workplace Memes
Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our notice. Here are five examples. Available here and by RSS on October 25.
Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International AirportAnd on November 1: Risk Creep: I
Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep? Available here and by RSS on November 1.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenuBPSSemYOiQScHaGner@ChachDaMmrhZJQowtwCYoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Workplace Politics Awareness Month KitIn October, increase awareness of workplace politics, and learn how to convert destructive politics into creative politics. Order the Workplace Politics Awareness Month Kit during October at the special price of USD 29.95 and save USD 10.00! Includes a copy of my tips book 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics which is a value!! ! Check it out!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.