Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB) is behavior harmful to the employer's legitimate interests. Gruys and Sackett have developed a complete typology that I briefly described in Part I of this catalog. Controlling these behaviors in knowledge-oriented workplaces requires recognizing the special forms they take there. That's why I collect knowledge-oriented CWBs as I remember them or encounter them. Here is Part II of my collection.
- Deviating from required procedures
- In knowledge-oriented workplaces how work is done can be as important as whether work is done. We have mandatory procedures to ensure that work is done correctly. Whether deviations and shortcuts result from negligence, ignorance, or intention, they erode confidence in results.
- Concealing deviations from required procedures
- Fearful about being discovered and then facing the consequences, those who deviate from required procedures sometimes conceal their deviations. Employers take note: when designing required procedures, take care to devise mechanisms that can detect both deviations and attempts to conceal those deviations.
- Misrepresenting sources
- When authoring reviews of knowledge literature, citing sources is a respected and valuable tradition. Typically, authors include citations when they paraphrase an important morsel of knowledge previously reported by another author. The key word here is paraphrase. To paraphrase is to restate in one's own words, usually to simplify or shorten the original statement. Restating the original statement so as to alter its meaning — often called "spin" — is not paraphrasing. It can be negligent misrepresentation, or lying, or goodness knows what else.
- Withholding results, intermediate results, or methods
- To withhold or conceal results is clearly a violation of the trust the employer places in the employee. Less often recognized as a violation is withholding intermediate results or the methods used to obtain them. How we generate knowledge can be as important and valuable as the knowledge itself — maybe more important and more valuable.
- Misrepresenting status
- Under pressure Under pressure to produce results,
some seek relief from the
pressure by misrepresenting
the status of the effortto produce results, some seek relief from the pressure by misrepresenting the status of the effort. They claim more progress than they actually have, or they claim they've recently resolved obstacles not actually resolved, or they claim they're blocked by obstacles that don't actually exist, all to conceal the true state of the effort. The pressure they feel is sometimes unfair — it might be the root cause of the problem. Still, misrepresenting status is not the solution. It conceals the real problem, and therefore prevents resolution.
- Invoking confidentiality illegitimately
- Certainly there are occasions when internal confidentiality is appropriate, as when we must compartmentalize for security reasons the distribution of information and knowledge. And just as certainly, and certainly unethically, confidentiality can be abused for personal or internal political purposes. Such abuse can hinder the organization's attempts to fulfill its mission. Monitoring abusive invocations of confidentiality is difficult and doable. Don't get caught abusing the process.
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More articles on Ethics at Work:
- Tornado Warning
- When organizations go astray ethically, and their misdeeds come to light, people feel shocked, as if
they've been swept up by a tornado. But ethical storms do have warning signs. Can you recognize them?
- Some Truths About Lies: II
- Knowing when someone else is lying doesn't make you a more ethical person, but it sure can be an advantage
if you want to stay out of trouble. Here's Part II of a catalog of techniques misleaders use.
- 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?
- Personnel-Sensitive Risks: II
- Personnel-sensitive risks are risks that are difficult to discuss openly. Open discussion could infringe
on someone's privacy, or lead to hurt feelings, or to toxic politics or toxic conflict. If we can't
discuss them openly, how can we deal with them?
- Influence and Belief Perseverance
- Belief perseverance is the pattern that causes us to cling more tightly to our beliefs when contradictory
information arrives. Those who understand belief perseverance can use it to manipulate others.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 24: Big, Complicated Problems
- Big, complicated problems can be difficult to solve. Even contemplating them can be daunting. But we can survive them if we get advice we can trust, know our resources, recall solutions to past problems, find workarounds, or as a last resort, escape. Available here and by RSS on April 24.
- And on May 1: Full Disclosure
- The term "full disclosure" is now a fairly common phrase, especially in news interviews and in film and fiction thrillers involving government employees or attorneys. It also has relevance in the knowledge workplace, and nuances associated with it can affect your credibility. Available here and by RSS on May 1.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people 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.