The Reciprocal Relationship between Counterproductive Work Behavior and Workplace Mistreatment: Its Temporal Dynamics and Boundary Conditions
44 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2015
Date Written: July 31, 2015
This research examines how employees’ behaviors shape their work environments and vice-versa. We identify and quantify the reciprocal relationship between three forms of workplace mistreatment (i.e., abusive supervision, ostracism, discrimination) and employees’ counterproductive work behavior (CWB) in a twelve-wave longitudinal study with a cross-lagged panel design. We show that employees’ bad behaviors at work (e.g., sabotage, theft, abuse of coworkers) are both a cause and a consequence of experiencing mistreatment from colleagues and supervisors. We investigate the temporal aspects of this reciprocal relationship and find that CWB-to-mistreatment and mistreatment-to-CWB effects both occur over a one-week time-span. Moreover, this reciprocal relationship continued across the twelve weeks of the study, and its magnitude neither intensified nor diminished over this time period. The CWB-to-mistreatment effect was roughly twice as large as the mistreatment-to-CWB effect, demonstrating the powerful influence of individuals’ behaviors on their work environments. Employees’ Conscientiousness moderated the reciprocal relationship by decreasing the frequency of CWB committed in response to mistreatment experienced the previous week, and to a lesser degree, by decreasing the frequency with which colleagues and supervisors mistreated employees who engaged in CWB the previous week. Surprisingly, no moderating influences were observed for individual differences in Honesty-Humility and Agreeableness, nor for organizational differences in procedural justice and the enforcement of an ethics code.
Keywords: counterproductive work behavior; mistreatment; Conscientiousness; abusive supervision; ostracism; discrimination
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