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:
- Workplace Politics vs. Integrity
- A reader wrote recently of wanting to learn "to effectively participate in office politics without
compromising my integrity." It sometimes seems that those who succeed in workplace politics must
know how to descend to the blackest depths, and still sleep at night. Must we abandon our integrity
to participate in workplace politics?
- Dubious Dealings
- Negotiating contracts with outsourcing suppliers can present ethical dilemmas, even when we try to be
as fair as possible. The negotiation itself can present conflicts of interest. What are those conflicts?
- Managing Personal Risk Management
- When we bias organizational decisions to manage our personal risks, we're sometimes acting ethically
— and sometimes not. What can we do to limit personal risk management?
- 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.
- The Costanza Matrix
- The Seinfeld character "George Costanza" is famous for having said, "It's not a lie if
you believe it." What if you don't believe it and it's true? Some musings.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
- And on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 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.