According to group psychology, workplace deviance can be defined as the deliberate and malicious desire to sabotage an organization by causing problems in the workplace. The concept has become widely popular in the field of organizational communication. It can involve interpersonal relationships like lying and gossiping as well as individual acts such as tardiness and theft. It’s important to discuss this topic because some boundaries are unclear on what could be considered a poor work ethic or deliberate deviance. This article will clarify the causes behind workplace deviance and what the different types look like.
When employees start working at a company, they create a set of expectations about their workplace. This is called making psychological contracts. When the terms of the “contract” are not met, this can be seen as a psychological contract breach by their employers. This then presents potential problems in the workplace. The psychological contract is an important factor in determining whether workers engage in workplace deviance. If they feel there is a breach, this may drive workplace deviance.
Workplace deviance is also closely related to abusive supervision. This is when a supervisor is angered too easily during a situation when the supervisor’s anger is disproportional to the situation at hand. Studies have explored the true reasons behind this anger, hypothesizing that a history of family aggression is the root of angry reactions and abusive supervision. Other behaviors include ridiculing their employees, giving them the silent treatment, reminding them of past failures, failing to give proper credit, and wrongfully assigning blame to others. Workplace experiences such as these may fuel the worker to act out. Research has demonstrated that the perception of not being respected is one of the main causes of workplace deviance; workplace dissatisfaction is also a factor.
Workplace deviance can be expressed in different ways. Employees can engage in behavior ranging from minor and nonviolent to extreme and violent. Interpersonal and organizational deviance are two forms of workplace deviance that are directed differently. Others include:
As with many forms of negative workplace behaviors, ensuring organizational justice is one of the most effective methods organizations can use to reduce the frequency of deviance. Additionally, positive relationships between employers and employees are crucial, as they can play an important role in the development of workplace deviance. Employees who perceive their organization or supervisors as more caring or supportive have been shown to have a reduced incidence of workplace-deviant behaviors. Supervisors, managers, and organizations who are aware of this should assess their own behaviors and interactions with their employees.
Garcia, J.M., Restubog, S.L.D., Kiewitz, C.S., & Scott, K.L & Tang, R.L. (2014). Abusive supervision may have roots in childhood. I/O at Work. Retrieved from https://www.ioatwork.com/abusive-supervision-may-roots-childhood/
McCarraher, L. (2020). What is workplace deviance. HR Zone. Retrieved from https://www.hrzone.com/hr-glossary/what-is-workplace-deviance
Sexual harassment is any behavior characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other social situation. Although it affects both males and females, women are extremely more likely to experience sexual harassment at work by male employees. There is extensive research on this subject as well as the psychological effects of sexual harassment on one’s personal and professional life. One article specifically states that women who have been harassed are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders, and will also face consequences in their career. They are either forced to withstand the harassment without reporting it or are asked to leave their jobs if they do report it. Unfortunately, because of this, many instances are not reported. It’s important for organizations to continually bring up this topic so that employees can be aware of the signs.
Power can be seen as the core of sexual harassment. Popular characterizations portray male supervisors harassing female subordinates, but power-threat theories suggest that women in authority may be more frequent targets. One article analyzed longitudinal survey data and qualitative interviews to test why and how supervisory authority, gender nonconformity, and workplace sex ratios affect harassment. Researchers found that female supervisors are more likely to report harassing behaviors and to define their experiences as sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can serve as an equalizer against women in power, motivated more by control and domination than by sexual desire. Interviews point to social isolation as a mechanism linking harassment to gender nonconformity and women’s authority, particularly in male-dominated work settings. This suggests that sexual harassment is both physically and emotionally damaging.
It’s important to clarify the distinction between sexual harassment and workplace violence. Workplace violence involves making harmful statements about internal personal attributes while sexual harassment deals with external and gender attributes. They both have significant negative consequences for employees’ job attitudes, performance, and psychological and physical well-being. However, research shows that victims of workplace violence may experience stronger adverse outcomes than victims of sexual harassment. This is due to the fact that victims of workplace aggression are more likely than victims of sexual harassment to personalize the mistreatment and make internal attributions. In other words, negative outcomes of workplace aggression were stronger in magnitude than those of sexual harassment. Not to say that the effects of sexual harassment are minimized in this comparison, but this just highlights how damaging an unhealthy work environment can be for one’s personal and professional life.
If you or anyone you know has or is currently being harassed at work, there are resources available to help you recognize the signs and how to effectively report it.
Herschcovis, M. S. & Barling, J. (2010). Comparing victim attributions and outcomes for workplace aggression and sexual harassment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(5), 874-888. doi: 10.1037/a0020070
McDonald, P. (2012). Workplace sexual harassment 30 years on: A review of the literature. International Journal of Management Reviews, 14(1), 1-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2370.2011.00300.x
McLaughlin, H., Uggen, C., & Blackstone, A. (2012). Sexual harassment, workplace authority, and the paradox of power. American Sociological Review, 77(4), 625-647. doi: 10.1177/0003122412451728