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5 Types of Counterproductive Work Behavior

Common Examples of Unproductive Work Habits

  • Tardiness and Absenteeism
  • Bullying and Harassment
  • Overworking and Late Nights
  • Digital Loafing
  • Breakdowns in Communication

Addressing counterproductive work behavior (CWB) is more than a matter of saving a bit of money. For some employers, improving overall worker productivity plays a decisive role in establishing competitive advantage and ensuring long-term success. While it’s easy to blame the internet, smartphones and other marvels of modern technology for a distracted workforce, there are actually many types of counterproductive behavior that can distract employees and detract from their results.

Related resource: Top 10 Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology Online

1. Tardiness and Absenteeism

Every workplace suffers from late or absent employees to some degree, which is why many implement absence-control policies to address the issue. Rather than forcing management or team leaders to assess each case on an individual basis, businesses should consider creating a formal set of rules to guide decisions on this subject. In many cases, these two factors are also linked to overall workplace satisfaction, scheduling and other issues outside of an employee’s control.

2. Bullying and Harassment

Public awareness of the profound effects of workplace bullying and harassment has increased in recent years, but these issues are still far from resolved. Malicious or unwanted interactions between employees can make workers uncomfortable, isolated and far less productive. Awareness of these issues allows employers to set up rules and systems to protect their personnel from negative social interaction in the workplace.

3. Overworking and Late Nights

Whether it’s routinely keeping employees late or encouraging them to take their work mentality home each evening, overclocking employees can have a devastating effect on their productivity. In fact, the lack of sufficient sleep and rest from professional responsibilities is directly linked to an increase in workplace accidents and lower quality results, according to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Employees shouldn’t feel pressure to immediately respond to emails during off-hours or be obligated to commit to late nights on a regular basis.

4. Digital Loafing

Loafing on the job has been an issue for employers for about as long as there have been jobs, but modern digital technology has opened a whole new realm of time-wasting opportunities. Social media is a common culprit, especially in office environments where workers spend a lot of time on computers. Businesses struggle to find a balance between policing how employees spend time and giving them free rein to fritter away the day on idle activity. Clear policies and the ability to enforce them require some level of supervision, but excessive oversight can also damage loyalty, morale, and retention.

5. Breakdowns in Communication

There are several common sources of communication breakdowns within an organization and they can be surprisingly counterproductive. Employees may hesitate to ask questions or confirm responsibilities for fear of looking silly or being reprimanded for lack of attentiveness. Poor communication between teams and departments can also put projects behind schedule and result in duplicated work, which is nothing but a waste of time and resources.

Achieving a completely efficient workplace is an idealistic dream for any company leader, but it’s also nothing more than an ideal. There will always be room for improvement in any organization, which is why leaders should always prioritize the issues that most impact their specific organization. Identifying and addressing common sources of counterproductive behavior won’t solve everything, but it can make a massive difference in the overall quality and quantity of worker output.