Job Stress and Counterproductive Work Behavior

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 6
Words: 1394
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: College

Counterproductive work behavior

Every company has goals and behavioral practices that are unique to it. Employees are therefore required to live up to the expectations and character requirements of the organization. Counterproductive work behavior, also known as CWB, refers to behaviors that contravene an organization’s policies. Employees can exhibit behaviors that water down the organization’s efforts to increase and improve its productivity.

These may be an intention occurrence or unintentional but the results are similar whatever the cases. Counterproductive behaviors are caused by variant motives depending on individual employees. Factors such as the working environment can affect the workforce among other effects (MacLane and Walmsley, 2010).

For example, lax supervision can cause employees to steal property from the company. On the other hand, lateness, absence and other behaviors can lead to poor performance. The environment in which the employees are working in directly influences the effects of counterproductive behaviours menationed above. Other behaviors that are considered counterproductive include leaving work before the stipulated time for leaving.

Employees also display a tendency of working slowly intentionally for whatever reasons and taking long breaks (Sackett, 1994). Counterproductive behaviors are also seen when employees are involved in sabotaging equipments, and taking kickbacks. Political aspects in an organization also can contribute to counterproductive work behaviors. This happens when things like favoritism, gossip, and taking sides, blame games, and false accusations are raised against fellow workmates. Counterproductive behaviors are set in different categories and they include withdrawal, and anti-social behaviors. Withdrawal behaviors include lateness and absences and they are known to destroy job satisfaction and employees’ commitment (MacLane and Walmsley, 2010).

Reasons for counterproductive work behavior

Employees who are not satisfied by their work seem to show some aspects of withdrawal to avoid their tasks. This is because they do not love what they do and they would rather be doing something different. Hence, it causes the low working morale in employees. Anti-social behaviors are influenced by physical aggression towards employees in the organization (MacLane and Walmsley, 2010).

Some employees may show aspects of working in disregard to others hence causing their colleagues distress in the workplace. This kind of behavior is called workplace incivility. Bullying is also another form of counterproductive behavior that inhibits the existence of a perfect productive environment in an organization. The most common form of anti-social counterproductive behavior is sexual harassment, which is widely referred to as unwelcomed sexual advancement towards fellow employees.

Counterproductive behaviors are impacted by different factors. Mostly, such behaviors are intended to harm or influence adverse effects on the productivity of an organization and the employees as well. Researchers argue that counterproductive behaviors are caused by job stress. There are emotions that arise in the work place that can cause or induce emotional reactions for example anxiety, and anger (MacLane & Walmsley, 2010). The job stress process is greatly influenced by emotional reactions. Therefore, job stress can be seen as a major mediator between counterproductive behaviors and stressors (Roberts, Harms, Caspi, and Moffitt, 2007).

Personality characteristics are other forms of job stressors hence forming part or influencing counterproductive behaviors. It has been discovered that character traits influence individual reactions to emotions and can be used to predict counterproductive behaviors (Robbins, 2010). Anger is one of the most common counterproductive behaviors in an organization. People who have anger issues can be a great liability to the organization if the trait is not controlled. These types of people are normally provoked by simple and unlikely events and this can cause them displeasure with their work.

Job stress

Anger causes an individual to respond very fast when provoked and normally this involves physical and verbal responses (Nelson and Quick, 2012). This type of reaction may resort to vulgar language that is unpalatable and against the organization’s code of conduct or even a fight, which is detrimental for the organization’s image. An organization’s justice procedures in times of disputes are subject of study with regard to CWB.

Organizational justice can cause stress to employers if inequality and fairness is sabotaged. A negative attitude of employees towards the organizational justice is detrimental and a great cause of job stress (MacLane and Walmsley, 2010). Fairness and justice are factors that can elicit negative emotions if they are not administered in a fair and just manner (Marcus and Schuler, 2004).

Injustices and unfairness cause negative emotions hence enhancing stress in the organization. This ultimately causes the employees to react in counterproductive behaviors consequently adversely affecting the organization’s performance (MacLane and Walmsley, 2010). Some of the known injustices include distributive justice, which involve the perception of employees on the way the management is treating them with regard to their contribution in the organization. Procedural justice, on the other hand, is the way the employees feel about the procedures used to determine the distribution of other aspects in the organization (Diefendorff and Mehta, 2007).

Impacts of poor communication

Lack of communication can lead to stress and conflict in the work place (Bowling & Gruys, 2010). Employees normally wait to hear from their superiors in order to know what they are required to do for the day. If the superior fails to give directives to his or her juniors, they may not start working and this may cause a conflict (MacLane and Walmsley, 2010). In addition, a worker waiting for his or her colleague to deliver some documents so that they can file a report may fail to do so. In case of lateness or delay from one party, this can, cause problems to the other hence resulting to a conflict.

In organizations that have limited resources, conflict may arise as the employees fight for access to them (Bennett and Robinson, 2000). Tension can be created in the event that a rumor is spread within the origination based on poor communication (MacLane and Walmsley, 2010).

Role ambiguity

Job ambiguity is a major cause of conflict in an organization. Complex organizations have a range of expectations from their employees and this gives them pressure while carrying out their organizational roles (Hanisch, 1995). Stress arises in the conflicting expectations placed on the employees by both themselves and the management (MacLane & Walmsley, 2010). Mostly the conflict is caused by unclear expectations by the organization’s leadership. High conflict and ambiguity reduce job satisfaction and causes stress (MacLane & Walmsley, 2010). This ultimately leads to counterproductive behaviors.

Role ambiguity causes counterproductive behavior mainly because the employees are dissatisfied in their job. The high and unclear expectations put employees under a lot of pressure, which is not a good organizational environment (MacLane and Walmsley, 2010). Job ambiguity leads to conflict and blame games, which shows aspects of unfairness hence increasing the chances for negative responses with regard to work. Clearly stipulated allocations and fair distribution of tasks reduce the occurrence of role ambiguity and enhances employee’s productivity. Role ambiguity has a direct impact on counterproductive behaviors and it should be addressed to reduce the impacts of stress in an organization.

Purpose of the study

This study is set to identify the effects of some organizational behaviors on personal performances. The study has examined the relationship between role ambiguity and counterproductive behavior. The two topics have been extensively discussed and their impacts on each other outlined very clearly. The study also has shown the impacts of poor chains of communication. A number of examples have also been given to show the effects of communication on productivity and conflict. Stress as a major cause of counterproductive work behaviors has been keenly discussed and outlined in the paper citing the effects it has on employees.

Importance of study

This study is very important especially for leaders in an organization. It is very important for organizations to uphold practices that are advantageous to their productiveness. One way of doing this is by identifying the things that limit the organizations productiveness (MacLane and Walmsley, 2010). With the knowledge of such things, it becomes very easy to work on rectifying those areas that are more prone to such events.

The study gives an insight on how some aspects that are taken lightly can cause great harm to both individual employees and the organization at large. Evaluating employees’ personalities can help in identifying their behaviors hence enabling the organization to select its employees based on the required personal behavioral characteristics. This reduces the chances of work dissatisfaction by a very large margin.


Bennett, R. J., & Robinson, S. L. (2000). Development of a measure of workplace deviance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(3), 349–360.

Bowling, N. A., & Gruys, M. L. (2010). New perspectives in the study of counterproductive behavior in organizations. Human Resource Management, 20(1) 54–61.

Diefendorff, J. M., & Mehta, K. (2007). The relations of motivational traits with workplace deviance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(4), 967–977.

Hanisch, K. A. (1995). Organizational withdrawal. London: UK: Blackwell Encyclopedic Dictionary of Organizational Behavior.

MacLane, C. N., & Walmsley, P. T. (2010). Reducing counterproductive work behavior through employee selection. Human Resource Management Review, 20(1), 62–72.

Marcus, B., & Schuler, H. (2004). Antecedents of counterproductive behavior at work: A general perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89 (4), 647–660.

Nelson, D., L., & Quick, J., C. (2012). Organizational Behavior: Science, the Real World, and You. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

Robbins, P. (2010). Essentials of Organizational Behavior, 10/E. New York, NY: Pearson Education.

Roberts, B. W., Harms, P. D., Caspi, A., & Moffitt, T. E. (2007). Predicting the counterproductive employee in a child-to-adult prospective study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(5), 1427–1436.

Sackett, P. R. (1994). Integrity testing for personnel selection. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 3(3), 73–76.