Week 5 Role Of Managers In Encouraging Deviant Behaviors Research Paper summarize article required word document is attached 2006
Litzky, Eddleston and Kidder
The Good, the Bad, and the Misguided:
How Managers Inadvertently Encourage Deviant Behaviors
by Barrie E. Litzky, Kimberly A. Eddleston, and Deborah L. Kidder*
Recent estimates of the costs associated with deviant behavior in the workplace are staggering. While part
of the managerial function requires the establishment of rules and policies that promote good customer
service and product consistency, managers who lead with a firm hand or place too much pressure on sales
quotas, may be unknowingly contributing to their employees deviant behaviors. Managers must learn to
identify the role that they play in triggering employee deviance. Once recognized, there is much that
managers can do to ameliorate the triggers that encourage otherwise honest employees to engage in deviant
I wouldnt say what I did was unethical. Rather, it was
more, say, questionable. But hey, my manager says,
The customer is always right. So basically, I was following her orders.
Come on everybody does it. Its almost expected.
I bet even my manager did it when he had my job.
Considering how much money I bring into this place,
I deserve it. They should be paying me more anyway.
anagers often face employees like these who
try to justify their actions after being caught
behaving inappropriately. Some managers
may terminate these employees in an attempt to
rid the organization of such unscrupulous individuals. But personality alone is a rather poor predictor of deviant behavior.1 In fact, 60 percent of all
employees engage in theft: 30 percent when presented with an opportunity to steal and 30 percent
when they have found a way to steal after actively
searching for an opportunity.2 Furthermore, in a
national poll from the late 1990s, 48 percent of
workers admitted to cutting corners on quality
control, covering up incidents, abusing or lying
about sick days, lying to or deceiving customers,
cheating on expense accounts, and paying or accepting kickbacks.3 Deviant behavior is as much a
function of the norms of the workplace and managerial leadership as it is an individual personality
trait or propensity.4 Even inherently honest employees can be pushed to behave inappropriately if
they perceive their work environment as unjust,
or if they feel that management has treated them
poorly.5 As such, managers can sometimes create
an environment in which they unknowingly contribute to their employees deviant acts.
Managers should consider it a warning when
they repeatedly witness the same deviant behaviors even with different people in the positions
involved.6 It remains the job of managers to create
an ethical climate that keeps normally honest
employees from performing dishonest behaviors.
Top management sets the ethical tone for the
organization and it is through management leadership that employee honesty can be most effectively and immediately achieved.7 Creating an
ethical climate and being aware of how managers
actions may encourage employees deviant behavior is an especially important topic given that the
recent rash of corporate scandals has left employees, customers, investors and the general public
feeling wary and distrustful of business in general.
Employee deviant behaviorwhich includes
theft, abuse of privileges, and lack of regard for
cost control or quality costs businesses more
* Barrie E. Litzky is Assistant Professor, Management and Organization, Penn State Great Valley. Contact: email@example.com.
Kimberly A. Eddleston is Assistant Professor, College of Business Administration, Northeastern University. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deborah L. Kidder is Associate Professor, Department of Management, Towson University. Contact: email@example.com.
Academy of Management Perspectives
than $20 billion each year and causes 30 percent
of all business failures.8 Furthermore, fraudulent
behavior costs the average U.S. business 6 percent
of its annual revenues.9 Other negative repercussions from deviant behavior include lawsuits,
fines, productivity losses, and loss of reputation.10
With the costs of deviant behavior so high and
such a small percentage ever being detected by
their organizations, it is imperative that individuals understand the connection between the managers role and the employees decisions to engage
in deviant behaviors.11
In this paper, we offer a conceptual framework
to aid in the understanding of some of the causes,
types, and implications of workplace deviance
(See Figure 1). We begin with a discussion of
workplace deviance using a well-known typology
generally accepted by deviance scholars.12 Next,
we describe the managerial triggers that may inadvertently cause employees to engage in workplace deviance and illustrate incidents of deviance
using examples from a number of professions and
industries. Drawing on the research findings of
deviance scholars, we present resolutions for eliminating workplace deviance. We conclude by
identifying some areas for future exploration.
Types of Workplace Deviance
he body of knowledge on workplace deviance
has grown considerably over the last twentyfive years. Numerous scientific studies have
revealed a large number of organizational phenomena which can generally be described as de-
Causes and Costs of Workplace Deviance
viance including: theft, misconduct, rule-breaking, counterproductive behavior, organizational
misbehavior, and dysfunctional behavior. In this
paper, we adopt Robinson and Bennetts definition and typology of workplace deviance. That is,
employee deviance is a voluntary behavior that
violates the norms of an organization, which may
ultimately threaten the well-being of the organization, its employees, or both.13 The four types of
workplace deviance are production deviance, political deviance, property deviance, and personal
Production deviance occurs when employees
violate the standards of quality and quantity when
producing a good or service. Although considered
a minor form of deviance, production deviance
may be quite costly to an organization, since a loss
of control over production standards may inflate
production costs and chip away at inventory control. Examples of production deviance include
wasting resources, setting unrealistic expectations
regarding product performance, or intentionally
Political deviance occurs when employees exhibit favoritism for certain stakeholders (e.g., customers, co-workers, suppliers) thus placing others
at a disadvantage. Political deviance may include
undercharging preferred customers, compromising
company secrets, and gossiping. Such favoritism
may generate costs to the organization that result
from inconsistent service quality, dissatisfaction,
and perceptions of unfairness.
Property deviance involves the acquisition or
Litzky, Eddleston and Kidder
destruction of company property without company approval. Employees may engage in property
deviance by stealing products, padding expense
accounts, or expending sales support resources on
unqualified customer prospects. The unauthorized
acquisition, or theft, of inventory and other resources has obvious negative effects on an organizations bottom line.
Finally, personal aggression involves hostile or
aggressive behavior. This form of deviance can
harm an organizations reputation and have serious negative consequences for the targeted individuals. Personal aggression includes various types
of intimidation tactics such as sexual harassment,
verbal abuse, and threats of physical harm.
Robinson and Bennett have classified these
four categories of deviant behaviors along two
dimensions. The first dimension deals with the
seriousness of the offense while the second dimension focuses on the target of the deviant behavior.
Concerning the first dimension, both production
deviance and political deviance are considered
minor in comparison to property deviance and
personal aggression, which are labeled as serious in
the typology. With regard to the target of the
deviant behavior, production deviance and property deviance are seen as acts directed against the
organization, while political deviance and personal aggression are categorized as being directed
toward specific individuals. As such, this typology
demonstrates that deviant behaviors come in a
range of severity as well as a range of targets.
These four categories encompass a wide variety of
behaviors that managers may face in the workplace. We now turn to a discussion of the relationship between managerial actions and employee deviant behaviors.
How Managers Trigger Employee
t is important to note that beyond the actions of
managers there are several reasons why employees engage in deviant behaviors. Poor working
conditions as well as times of organizational
change increase the reported incidences of deviant behavior.15 Research has also found that certain personality traits (i.e., low conscientiousness,
low emotional stability, low agreeableness, cynicism, and external locus of control), as well as the
presence of external financial pressures and age,
can help predict deviant behavior.16 Personality
and integrity tests used during the selection process can partially control for individual differences
associated with deviance.17 It is important to note,
however, that only about 12 percent of workers
who commit fraudulent acts have a previous conviction. Therefore, honest employees seem to
commit most deviant acts,18 and personality and
background checks are limited in their ability to
ward off employee deviance.
Instead, the most accurate predictions of deviant behavior can be made by taking into account
the personality traits of the employee as well as
the organizational environment in which he or
she works.19 However, given that the majority of
individuals caught committing the most serious
deviant acts are first-time offenders and so few
deviant acts are ever detected, it is imperative that
managers understand the role they play in predicting workplace deviance.20 Learning why good apples in bad barrels turn sour may help managers to
rethink their leadership styles and motivation
techniques in an effort to create a more ethical
workplace.21 Based on our own research as well as
a review of the deviance literature, next we discuss
six factors that are under managers control that
may inadvertently encourage employees to engage
in deviant behaviors. They are: 1) the compensation/reward structure; 2) social pressures to conform; 3) negative and untrusting attitudes; 4) ambiguity about job performance; 5) unfair
treatment; and 6) violating employee trust.
Depending upon their design, compensation and
reward systems can encourage employees to engage in deviant behaviors. Competition for rewards can cause employees to look out only for
themselves and to believe that unscrupulous behavior is necessary in order to get ahead of coworkers.22 Having employees compensation partially depend upon commissions or gratuities
increases the employees identification with customers, which can trigger deviant acts that employees can rationalize under the guise of meeting
Academy of Management Perspectives
sales quotas and customer satisfaction. Research
has uncovered numerous examples of the connection between commissions and/or gratuities and
workplace deviance. Studies of individuals in sales
positions in a variety of industries (e.g., automobiles, real estate, insurance, and financial services), whose income was 80 to 100 percent based
on commission, found evidence of workplace deviance, including undercharging for services, lying
about meeting quotas, and padding expense accounts.23 For example, in the early 1990s, Sears
Automotive switched its incentive system from
salary and hourly pay to a commission-based system through which service managers and mechanics were paid for the number of parts sold and the
number of repairs completed. As a response to
meeting these financial pressures, employees engaged in production deviance by overselling repair
services and rushing through repairs, which resulted in shoddy work.24 Similarly, in a study of
bartenders, an occupation that heavily relies upon
gratuities for income, regular customers were particularly able to encourage deviant acts including
receiving free drinks and food (property deviance)
and preferential service (political deviance).25
Since the general purpose of commission or
gratuity-based reward systems is to encourage employees to sell a high level of products or services
and to strive for high quality customer service and
satisfaction, the consequences of engaging in deviant behaviors in an effort to make a sale and
satisfy the customer can be financially rewarding
for the worker. While financial gain may operate
as a strong motive for individuals to engage in
workplace deviance, self-interest alone does not
appear to motivate honest employees to behave
dishonestly. It is the link between sales or customer satisfaction and financial rewards that provides a context for commissioned- and gratuitybased employees to rationalize deviant behaviors.
Social Pressures to Conform
Social influence theories suggest that both small
group (e.g., teams, co-workers) and large group
(e.g., organizational) norms influence a variety of
employee behaviors including conformity, decision-making quality, and work performance.26
Group norm conformity is influenced by an indi-
viduals desire for acceptance, cohesiveness among
the group members, rewards associated with conformity, and, alternatively, punishments associated with non-conformity.27 Thus, workplace deviance may occur when managers engage in, or
tolerate deviant behavior, and/or when managers
create an organizational climate that allows employees to put undue pressure on newcomers to
conform to group norms.28
When members of a workgroup deem deviant
behaviors acceptable, new employees are conditioned to conduct business in a manner that perpetuates the deviant, but accepted behaviors.29
Cheating on sales was so institutionalized among
sales representatives at one organization that they
created shorthand names for their tactics. For example, to meet sales quotas for average dollars
spent per order, sales representatives would make
silent sales by adding extra items to a customers
order. Most often the customers discovered the
silent sales and returned them, to be restocked
them at the companys expense. Of an estimated
$130 million in sales, approximately $7.5 million
was due to these fraudulent silent sales.30
In a study of bartenders, senior employees
taught new employees to ignore certain rules so
that tips could be increased.31 For instance, at one
establishment the bartenders decided as a group at
the end of each shift how much tip money to
report for tax purposes. Since tips were pooled, it
was imperative that they all report the same
amount, and it was usually considerably less than
the actual amount of money that was earned (political deviance). New bartenders were taught this
deviant group practice on their very first work
shift. As such, the pressure that employees feel to
conform to the norms of the work group can
trigger and perpetuate a cycle of deviant behavior.
Furthermore, individuals may feel direct pressure from their managers to conform to departmental or organizational norms. Research on theft
(property deviance) indicates that managers often
play a role in their employees deviant behavior.32
If a supervisor engages in property deviance, he or
she is role-modeling for employees, allowing them
to rationalize their own deviant behaviors. More
often, managers either condone or turn a blind eye
to minor offenses of property deviance. For exam-
Litzky, Eddleston and Kidder
ple, sometimes managers ignore certain dishonest
acts, such as the taking of small amounts of office
supplies, because they do not want to hurt their
employees morale or productivity.33 Inconsistency in reprimanding questionable behavior can
inadvertently demonstrate a tolerance for deviant
behavior in the workplace. It also encourages the
rule-abiding employees to copy the deviant acts.34
betrayed by their managers arrived at work one
day with a gun to seek revenge against their superiors and their organizations.39 Such examples
underscore the importance of establishing trusting
attitudes toward employees, which are more likely
to result in positive relationships between managers and subordinates, and employee actions that
are aligned with the organization.40
Negative and Untrusting Attitudes
Ambiguity about Job Performance
Some managers believe that employees cannot be
trusted to behave ethically or in the best interest
of the organization, and that they must control
employees in order to get them to behave appropriately. Agency theory helps explain this attitude.35 Agency theory argues that the goals of
employees are different from the goals of the company owners. Assuming that employees are rational self-interested individuals, agency theory predicts that employees will be motivated to pursue
their own interests, which may lead to deviant
behavior when personal interests conflict with
organizational interests. Therefore, employees
need to be monitored closely to prevent any deviant behaviors from occurring. The tenets of
agency theory are widely held by many managers
and management researchers.
The problem with holding this negative attitude toward employees is that it may be counterproductive. When managers expect the worst
from their employees, it often becomes a selffulfilling prophecy when the employees then live
down to managers expectations. Employees, who
feel that they are not trusted, will often act out
negatively in an effort to retaliate.36 Research
provides many examples of retaliatory behaviors
in response to untrusting managers, ranging from
stealing (property deviance) or purposefully slowing down production (production deviance) to
instances of personal aggression towards management including threats and insults.37 For instance,
when some employees who were not receiving
bonuses learned about their companys secret profit-sharing program that included 30 to 40 percent
of employees, they threatened to quit the company and to go work for competitors.38 At the
extreme, there are numerous reports in the popular press that describe how employees who felt
Role ambiguity implies a lack of information
about a particular role and subsequent uncertainty
regarding the expectations associated with the
role.41 Individuals may feel ambiguity about how
their roles are defined, what their responsibilities
are, and what the expectations of behavior are in
certain situations. Role ambiguity can create a
host of negative job responses including turnover,
low job performance, stress, and different manifestations of deviance, and it is particularly salient
for individuals who are spanning multiple roles at
Research suggests that individuals in boundaryspanning roles (e.g., who bridge the gap between
an organization and its customers) are particularly
susceptible to role ambiguity.43 Salespeople, customer service representatives, accountants, management consultants, financial services, and insurance professionals are all boundary-spanners.
When managers pressure their employees to maximize sales or to do whatever it takes to satisfy the
client, they may be contributing to job performance ambiguity. In response, employees may believe that if engaging in deviant activities helps
the business, managers will condone it and even
Job performance ambiguity exists for boundary
spanning employees when the wishes of the customers stand in direct conflict with management
policies. In these situations, employees must often
choose to either satisfy …
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