Contribution of Social Learning in Counterproductive Work Behaviors

Contribution of Social Learning in Counterproductive Work Behaviors

Naman Sharma (Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, India)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3090-9.ch014


Unethical employee behaviors pose a grave challenge for organizations today. Research has established that every year organizations lose millions of their dollars along with their valuable reputation due to immoral conduct of their employees. Practitioners and researchers in the past have undertook such instances very seriously and analyzed various antecedents to these employee behaviors. While various personality and attitude related variables have been held responsible for counterproductive work behaviors, the role of social learning was often overlooked in this pursuit. Current chapter address this gap and presents a logical framework for establishing social learning as potential antecedent of employee deviance in organizations.
Chapter Preview


A new employee being mocked by the senior executives in the company; a lecturer picking up a personal phone call during the lecture; a clerk with holding an arrear bill of employees for no legitimate reason; manager downloading videos/playing games on the company’s internet network; a worker sabotaging the equipment because he didn’t get the salary raise as expected. All these above unethical incidents and practices are only but few examples of Counterproductive Work Behaviors (CWB) also sometimes known as workplace/employee deviance.

You are free to make choices but you are not free to choose the consequences. (Unknown)

The above vignette suggests that many of times employees due to various reasons including frustration, negligence, work overload and stress make wrong choices at work and get engaged in the unethical behaviors such as mentioned earlier in the text only to later on finding themselves pay for it either in form of social humiliation or sometimes through losing their jobs as well as reputation in society at large. It is important to notice here that everybody believes that nobody forces an employee to deviates from the set rules and regulations of the organization and ultimately it is the free will of an employee to participate or not to participate in such acts. Despite this well established notion discussed above, there are observations from time to time that suggest that a person is often influenced by his surroundings while indulging in deviant behaviors. The impact of these behaviors become all more important in social work organizations as it directly impacts the life of people who are already at a disadvantageous state of life. This chapter will attempt to add momentum to this notion by focusing on concepts related to Counterproductive Work Behaviors (CWB) and its dynamics with social interactions covered under the widely researched Social Learning Theory (SLT).



It would be an untrue statement to say that CWB is a newer term to organizations or researchers. Many leading sociologists and criminologists over the past century had attempted to undertake studies on this subject. However’ some of the most concrete researches in this field have surfaced only in past few decades (Fox & Spector, 2005; Sackett & DeVore, 2001).

Researches concerning counterproductive behaviors at work draw inspiration from various schools of thoughts. These schools include organizational behavior, vocational psychology, behavioral business ethics etc. bringing in their own understanding of the subject leading to usage of their own unique terms/vocabulary to define such acts. These terms include deviance, unethical behavior, incivility and counterproductive work behavior etc. In this course of definitions, the most comprehensive definition on the subject that surfaced is perhaps this one:

Employee Deviance is a voluntary behavior that violates significant organizational norms and in so doing threatens the well-being of an organization, its members or both (Robinson & Bennett, 1995).

This definition specifically focused on two distinct aspects related to deviant behavior which are: a) these behaviors exhibited by the employees are voluntary in nature either due to the lack of motivation to follow norms or presence of motivation to break them and b) these behaviors violate the said organizational norms instead of any societal norms or moral standards (Robinson & Bennett, 1995).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: