Counterproductive Work Behavior. Comparison of the Public and Private Sector [1]

By Szostek, Dawid | Journal of Positive Management, January 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Counterproductive Work Behavior. Comparison of the Public and Private Sector [1]


Szostek, Dawid, Journal of Positive Management


1. Introduction

In the USA losses resulting from counterproductive work behaviors (CWB) amount to 6 or even 200 billion USD. What is more, as many as 33-75% of American workers admit engagement in such activities as thefts, embezzlement, vandalism, sabotage or unjustified absence (Robinson and Bennett, 1995). Media report very often on detecting a corrupt worker or cases of violence at the place of work.

CWB is manifested in every organization, regardless of a longitude or latitude. This results from an imperfect nature of human beings and impossibility to foresee their responses to various conditions. However, one may indicate certain sectors of the economy, in which such types of behaviors are manifested most often. This is the case of the public administration sector as compared to the private sector workers (Burned and Pope, 2007). This is a kind of a paradox, as the first of them is a higher public trust sector and, as such, it should be characterised by higher ethical standards (Ikola-Norrbacka, 2010).

As a reason for this difference, authors point, among others, to little mobility of the public sector workers, which makes them more susceptible to such behaviors as mobbing or bullying (Zapf et al., 2003). The reasons could also include organizational structures burdened by red tape and depersonalization, autocratic management style, gaps in internal communications and salaries lower than those paid to the private sector workers, which results in a lower level of satisfaction and higher level of frustration or willingness to retaliate (Leymann, 1996; Nasir and Bashir, 2012; Bibi et al., 2013).

Unfortunately, the world literature does not include any exhaustive research on this subject (Nasir and Bashir, 2012). What is more, none of researchers have confirmed it empirically that there is a difference as regards frequency of manifestation of counterproductive behaviors by the public and private sector workers in Poland. Thus, the above constitutes a significant gap in knowledge, which author has attempted to fill.

The main purpose of the research paper is to verify the hypothesis that the public sector employees tend to engage in counterproductive work behaviors more often that the private sector employees. An additional purpose is to present results of the research relating to the frequency of engagement of employees in CWB in Poland. The research was conducted in 2017 with the use of an online questionnaire method with respect to 535 active employees (including 280 workers from the private sector and 244 workers from the public sector [2]).

2. Counterproductive behaviors and their consequences

The literature includes various definitions of counterproductive behaviors. However CWB is most often referred to in publications and seems to be the most adequate term of such behaviors (Glińska-Neweś and Lis, 2016), which is mainly due to the fact that it constitutes (a substantive and semantic) counterbalance for extraproductive behaviors (positive behaviors also referred to as Organizational Citizenship Behaviors, OCB; Organ, 1997). The absence of coherence as regards terms and definitions makes it difficult to understand the phenomenon as well as compare results of research conducted by various authors and evaluate the current status of the knowledge about these behaviors. They are referred to as bad, negative, pathological, dysfunctional, retaliate or unethical (Szostek, 2017). Not all of the definitions express it properly what such types of behaviors are, although the major common characteristic of such behaviors is that they infringe rules and norms of an organization or make it impossible to reach its goals (Nerdinger, 2011). However, for counterproductive behaviors to be manifested, additional conditions have to be fulfilled.

Thus, Spector et al. (2006) define CWB as a collection of some activities characterized by voluntariness (contrary to accidental or forced activities) that are or may be detrimental to an organization or various groups of its stakeholders (e. …

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