Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Influence of Salesperson Depression, Low Performance, and Emotional Exhaustion on Negative Organizational Deviance

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Influence of Salesperson Depression, Low Performance, and Emotional Exhaustion on Negative Organizational Deviance

Article excerpt

Negative workplace deviance has become increasingly commonplace among organizations. Approximately 95% of all U.S. companies have reported at least some sort of negative workplace deviance-related occurrence within their respective organizations (Henle, 2005). Specific to workplace deviance is negative organizational deviance (NOD), which refers to any act committed by an employee with the intent of harming the organization (Bennett and Robinson, 2003; Robinson and Bennett, 1995). NOD manifests in numerous ways-from the less severe act of intentionally decreasing worker output, to insubordination with a supervisor, to the even more severe act of workplace theft, or even the use of illegal drugs and/or alcohol at work. Within personal selling, one study revealed that 47% of sales managers suspected that their salespeople had lied on sales calls (Strout, 2002). In general, it is believed that as many as 75% of all employees have engaged in NOD behaviors (Harper, 1990). Estimates of the financial cost of NOD to U.S. firms are as high as $200 billion annually (Robinson and Bennett, 1995).


This study offers several significant contributions to the workplace deviance literature. First, NOD is particularly relevant to personal selling because salespeople are so autonomous, where they are often in the field and their actions are typically not directly supervised.

Second, NOD is important as it may be influenced by the demanding nature of personal selling. Thus, business-to-business (B2B) salespeople may passively engage in activities that are hurtful to their organization such as not working as hard or not following orders, particularly if the opportunity presents itself.

Third, this study focuses on an area that has received limited attention, individual-level factors that challenge salespeople (e.g., depression, emotional exhaustion, and low sales performance). These factors which tend to make individuals more passive are more logical to connect strongly with NOD, which is also measured with negative, passive behaviors. Prior sales deviance work focused largely on organizational factors but according to a workplace deviance meta-analysis by Berry et al. (2007) these factors were weakly associated with NOD.

Fourth, new explanations are offered in this study with theories not previously used before. Specifically, labeling theory and cognitive consistency theories are offered to the deviance literature for the first time.

A final contribution is that two of the three antecedent factors in this study are new to the workplace deviance literature. The factors depression and low sales performance (LSP) have not been studied with NOD, and emotional exhaustion (EE) has been examined only once.


The workplace deviance literature emerged when Robinson and Bennett (1995) first conceptualized a typology of deviant workplace behaviors with two dimensions: negative organizational deviance (NOD) and negative interpersonal deviance (NID). Later Bennett and Robinson (2000) developed a measure of both NOD and NID. NOD is voluntary behavior that threatens the organization while NID is behavior targeted at individuals within the organization. A workplace deviance meta-analysis by Berry et al. (2007) later affirmed the distinction between NOD and NID. In addition to NOD and NID, a third form of negative customer directed deviance (NCD) was offered by Jelinek and Ahearne (2006a).

While workplace deviance has been studied for some time in the management literature, there are relatively few published sales studies on the topic. The authors identified eight published studies of sales force deviance. Five of these studies are empirical in nature and examine the effect of such factors as: organizational justice and bureaucracy (Jelinek and Ahearne, 2006b), work-family conflict (Swimberghe et al., 2009; Darrat et al., 2010), person-organization fit (Jelinek and Ahearne, 2010), and social undermining and emotional exhaustion (Yoo and Frankwick, 2013). …

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