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Productive and Unproductive Behaviors

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Productive and Counterproductive Behavior in Organizations
August 24, 2011

Productive and Counterproductive Behavior in Organizations
The behaviors of employees in an organization are known as productive and counterproductive, these behaviors can benefit an organization or they can have a negative impact. There has been a lot of Psychological research done that examines these behaviors in an attempt to enhance job performance. This paper attempts to define both the counterproductive behaviors that can be detrimental to an organization and the productive employee behaviors that enhance an organization.
Productive Behavior and its impact on an organization
Productive behavior is defined as employee behavior that contributes positively to the goals and objectives of the organization displayed from their employees (Jex & Britt, 2008). Three of the more common forms of productive employee behaviors are job performance, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), and innovation. Job performance in generic terms covers all of the behaviors that employees engage in while on the job (Jex & Britt, 2008). This unfortunately is not very accurate because employees often engage in behaviors that have little to do with the job task the employees are performing. Job performance may be better described as not only how well an employee performs a job task, but also includes other forms of productive behavior. Over time the research has concluded that three variables can be pointed to as predictors of job performance. One is general cognitive ability. The second one is level of job experience and lastly there is the personality trait of conscientiousness (Jex & Britt, 2008).
Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) is another form of productive behavior. Generally speaking, OCB refers to those behaviors that are not a part of an employees’ formal job description or behaviors for which employees are not formally rewarded (Jex & Britt, 2008). OCB in an organization can be categorized into 5 different forms altruism, courtesy, sportsmanship, conscientiousness and civic virtue. These behaviors are based on our beliefs, attitudes, control, intentions and normality. These courteous, helping behaviors contribute positively to organizations effectiveness. Employees engage in OCB primarily because of the positive affect and perception of the level of fairness with which they are treated by an organization (Jex & Britt, 2008). The third and final form of productive behavior is innovation. This form of productive behavior may be thought of as instances in which employees come up with very novel ideas or concepts that further the goals of the organization (Jex & Britt, 2008). These ideas or concepts are most visible as a new product or service however, not all ideas take the form of a product or service. These ideas may take the form of new procedures, cost saving measures or revised administrative procedures.
Counterproductive Behavior and its impact on an organization
Employees tend to engage in productive behaviors. However, employees may also, at times, engage in behaviors that run counter to organizational goals. These behaviors are known as counterproductive behaviors and these behaviors work against the goals of the organization (Jex & Britt, 2008). Some examples of these behaviors are substandard job performance, high levels of absenteeism, unsafe job practices, employee turnover, theft, violence, substance abuse, and sexual harassment. These types of behaviors can result in high costs for organizations.
Absenteeism and turnover are two of the most common counterproductive behaviors in an organization. Absenteeism can simply be defined as not showing up for work. Absenteeism has a negative impact on productivity, causes a loss of revenue, and may also lead to less customer satisfaction. However, an organizations goal is to predict and control absences. The common distinction is between excused and unexcused absences. Making this distinction is important because different types of absences may be caused by different variables (Jex & Britt, 2008).
Another counterproductive behavior is employee turnover. Employee turnover has long been viewed by organizational psychologist as a behavioral response to negative feelings about one’s job or job situation. Turnover can be distinguished between optimal and dysfunctional turnover. Optimal turnover occurs in professional sports when players on teams in small markets leave because their current team does not have the financial resources to retain their star players (Jex & Britt, 2008). Turnover can be classed as dysfunctional if there is a consistent pattern whereby good employees leave, or if there is an extremely high rate of employee turnover. A consistently high rate of turnover or good employees leaving translates into increased cost associated with having to constantly recruit and train new employees. This can also tarnish the image of an organization replacing a good image with an image of “chewing up and spitting out” employees (Jex & Britt, 2008). An employee that engages in unsafe behavior, such as not following health or safety codes, is another example of counterproductive behavior. Unsafe behavior can lead to increased expenses due to workman’s compensation claims and can also lead to employee absenteeism. Finally, anti-social behavior such as violence, substance abuse, sexual harassment, and theft all have the potential to cause an organization many problems such as law suits, damage to the company’s reputation, and loss of revenue.
Organizations need to come up with strategies to increase productive behavior and decrease counterproductive behavior. When an organization keeps employees happy and healthy organizations are taking steps to increase productive behavior. Some of the ways that an organization can increase employee satisfaction is through fair compensation, adequate benefits, employee appreciation programs, and by creating an environment where the employee feels safe.
An employee’s counterproductive behaviors can be decreased by placing employees in positions that match their skill sets. Companies can be proactive in mediating worker conflicts, and by discouraging absenteeism. Counterproductive behaviors such as violence, sexual harassment, substance abuse, and theft are rarer and less predictable. This can be countered through educating employees on the law, implementing a disciplinary policy that prohibits these behaviors and requiring random drug tests are some methods to help keep these types of behaviors under control.
The success of an organization depends on the level of productivity their employees can achieve. As illustrated in this paper productive and counterproductive behaviors have a direct impact on job performance and the overall success of an organization. By organizations developing and using strategies to enhance the productive behaviors of employees companies will improve their chances of attaining an organizations goals.

Jex, S., & Britt, T. (2008). Organizational psychology: A scientist-practitioner approach (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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