Employee behavior harmful to the employer's legitimate interests is called Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB). Gruys and Sackett [Gruys 2003] 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.
- 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 knowledgework 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? Next in this series Top Next Issue
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For more examples of counterproductive workplace behavior in knowledge-oriented workplaces, see "Counterproductive Knowledge Workplace Behavior: II," Point Lookout for August 9, 2017.
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More articles on Ethics at Work:
- Ethical 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?
- Extrasensory Deception: II
- In negotiating agreements, the partners who do the drafting have an ethical obligation not to exploit
the advantages of the drafting role. Some drafters don't meet that standard.
- Counterproductive Knowledge Workplace Behavior: II
- In knowledge-oriented workplaces, counterproductive work behavior takes on forms that can be rare or
unseen in other workplaces. Here's Part II of a growing catalog.
- On Reporting Workplace Malpractice
- Reporting workplace malpractice can be the right thing to do. And it's often career-dangerous. Here
are some risks to ponder before reporting what you know.
- On Repeatable Blunders
- When organizations make mistakes, they sometimes acknowledge them and learn how to avoid repeating them.
And sometimes they conceal them or even deny they happened. When they conceal mistakes or deny they
occurred, repetition is more likely.
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- Deviant organizational behavior can harm the people and the organization. In choosing responses, we consider what drives the perpetrators. Considering Malice, Incompetence, Ignorance, and Greed, we can devise four guidelines for making these choices. Available here and by RSS on February 15.
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