Counter-productive work behaviours: Definition and Explanation

Counter-productive work behaviours: Definition and Explanation


What are Counter-productive work behaviours?

Counter-productive work behaviours refer to the types of behaviour that pull in the opposite direction of organisational citizenship behaviours and either detracts from, opposes, or causes barriers to the legitimate interests, aims, objectives and outcomes for an organisation.

There are a number of typologies of counter-productive work behaviours including:

  1. The two-dimensional model[i] of counter-productive work behaviours which distinguishes between:
    1. Behaviours which have a negative impact on individuals, and
    2. Behaviours which have a negative impact or target the organisation
  2. The five-dimension typology[ii] which includes behaviours such as:
    1. Abuse of others
    2. Slowing effectiveness or production
    3. Sabotage
    4. Theft
    5. Withdrawal behaviours
  3. The 11-dimension typology[iii]:
    1. Theft of property
    2. Destruction of property
    3. Misuse of information
    4. Misuse of time and resources
    5. Unsafe behaviours
    6. Poor attendance
    7. For work quality
    8. Alcohol use
    9. Drug use
    10. Inappropriate verbal actions
    11. Inappropriate physical or behavioural actions

Counter-productive work behaviours are strongly associated with:

  1. High staff turnover rates,
  2. Low productivity levels
  3. Low levels of organisational citizenship behaviours
  4. Poor leadership and management
  5. Low levels of organisational voice behaviours
  6. Low levels of trust 



[i] Dalal, R. S. (2005). “A meta-analysis of the relationship between organizational citizenship behavior and counterproductive work behavior”. Journal of Applied Psychology90 (6): 1241–1255.

[ii] Spector, P. E.; Fox, S.; Penney, L. M.; Bruursema, K.; Goh, A.; Kessler, S. (2006). “The dimensionality of counterproductivity: Are all counterproductive behaviors created equal?”. Journal of Vocational Behavior68 (3): 446–460.

[iii] Gruys, M. L.; Sackett, P. R. (2003). “Investigating the dimensionality of counterproductive work behavior”. International Journal of Selection & Assessment11 (1): 0–42





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