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:
- Non-Workplace Politics
- When we bring national or local political issues into the workplace — especially the divisive
issues — we risk disrupting our relationships, our projects, and the company itself.
- Email Ethics
- Ethics is the system of right and wrong that forms the foundation of civil society. Yet, when a new
technology arrives, explicitly extending the ethical code seems necessary — no matter how civil
the society. And so it is with email.
- When Others Curry Favor
- When peers curry favor with the boss, many of us feel contempt, an urge for revenge, anger, or worse.
Trying to stop those who curry favor probably isn't an effective strategy. What is?
- The Attributes of Political Opportunity: The Basics
- Opportunities come along even in tough times. But in tough times, it's especially important to distinguish
between true opportunities and high-risk adventures. Here are some of the attributes of desirable political
- Personnel-Sensitive Risks: I
- Some risks and the plans for managing them are personnel-sensitive in the sense that disclosure can
harm the enterprise or its people. Since most risk management plans are available to a broad internal
audience, personnel-sensitive risks cannot be managed in the customary way. Why not?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 17: Overt Belligerence in Meetings
- Some meetings lose their way in vain attempts to mollify a belligerent participant who simply will not be mollified. Here's one scenario that fits this pattern. Available here and by RSS on October 17.
- And on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.
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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.