Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Structure of an Organization: Does It Influence Workplace Deviance and Its' Dimensions? and to What Extent?

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Structure of an Organization: Does It Influence Workplace Deviance and Its' Dimensions? and to What Extent?

Article excerpt

Workplace deviance has been an incessant and expensive problem for organizations since at least the Industrial Revolution, if not for as long as individuals have been employed as agents for others (Klotz and Buckley, 2013). For U.S. organizations alone, the annual estimated costs associated with workplace deviance are in the millions (Case, 2000; Harris and Ogbonna, 2006; Murphy, 1993), leading the United States Department of Commerce to believe it causes nearly a third of U.S. organizational bankruptcies. Workplace deviance is defined as voluntary, norm-violating behavior that threatens the well-being of an organization and/or its members (Robinson and Bennett, 1995). Prior research suggests that the majority of employees have engaged in some form of workplace deviance (Bennett and Robinson, 2000; Harper, 1990; Harris and Ogbonna, 2002; Marasi, 2014; Slora, 1991). For these reasons (e.g., costly and pervasive), it is important to determine which factors influence employees to engage in workplace deviance.

Scholars have attempted to explain the causes for deviant behaviors by examining employees' attitudes and personality (e.g., negative affectivity: Richards and Schat, 2011; stress: Fox et al., 2001), situational factors (e.g., boredom: Spector et al., 2006; interpersonal injustice: Henle, 2005), and organizational factors (e.g., abusive supervision: Tepper et al., 2001; ethical climate: Peterson, 2002). For quite some time researchers have been calling for a further advancement in understanding organizational factors, such as the organizational environment and bureaucratic systems (e.g., Robinson and Greenberg, 1998; Zimmerman, 2001), in order to better understand employees' engagement in workplace deviance (Appelbaum et al., 2007; Greenberg, 1998; Nelson-Horchler, 1991; Peterson, 2002; Trevino and Nelson, 1995). However, a neglected area for predicting employees' engagement in workplace deviance is the organizational structure itself, which is an element of the organizational environment.

Interestingly, since an organization's structure (e.g., centralization and formalization efforts) is relatively stable and determined prior to an employee's arrival in an organization's workforce, it may be a potential background source of workplace deviance, meaning that the organization may in itself be causing employees to engage in deviant behaviors without knowing they are contributing to the problem. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between the organizational structure (specifically, centralization and formalization) and workplace deviance. Following reactance theory (Brehm, 1966), centralization's sub-dimensions, participation in decision-making and hierarchy of authority, are argued to be related to workplace deviance. Formalization is predicted to influence workplace deviance based on situational strength theory (Mischel, 1977). Furthermore, with arguments based on social exchange theory (Blau, 1964) and reactance theory (Brehm, 1966), organizational deviance is argued to have higher effects than interpersonal deviance due to an organizations' structure being created and sustained by the organization itself in that it is an organizational factor.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Workplace deviance has been conceptualized along two dimensions (interpersonal and organizational deviance), which is based on the target of the deviant behavior (Robinson and Bennett, 1995). Interpersonal deviance is conceptualized as deviant acts directed toward individuals, such as coworkers. Examples of interpersonal deviance include making fun of another employee at work, publicly embarrassing a coworker at work, cursing at or verbally abusing another employee, and taking another employees' possessions without permission. Organizational deviance consists of deviant acts aimed toward the organization. Employees making personal phone calls during work hours, wasting company resources, sabotaging equipment or merchandise, and intentionally making errors in work are examples of organizational deviance. …

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