In This Article Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB)

  • Introduction
  • General Overview
  • Definitions, Dimensionality, and Measurement
  • Measurement Issues of CWB
  • CWB and OCB
  • Within-Person Studies of CWB
  • Non-Western Studies

Management Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB)
Zhiqing Zhou
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0143


Counterproductive work behavior (CWB) refers to employee voluntary behaviors that harm organizations (CWB-O) or people working in the organizations (CWB-P). Example behaviors of CWB include destroying company property, calling in sick when not ill, insulting another employee, and stealing something from the employer. CWB is very prevalent in the workplace and costs organizations billions of dollars annually. Given the detrimental effects of CWB in the workplace, a great deal of research has been conducted to examine its dimensions, measurement, predictors, and relationships with other employee voluntary behaviors (e.g., organizational citizenship behavior). The levels of examination of CWB also extended from between-person relationships to within-person designs and meta-analyses. This phenomenon has received research attention from researchers across the world.

General Overview

A number of reviews and meta-analyses have been published about CWB. Martinko, et al. 2002 integrates a few different perspectives to predict CWB and proposes a causal reasoning framework that highlights the importance of individuals’ attribution. Hershcovis, et al. 2007, a meta-analysis, reports multiple individual difference and various situational factors as predictors of CWB-P (people) and CWB-O (organization), respectively. Berry, et al. 2007, a meta-analysis, finds similarities and differences on relationships of CWB-O and CWB-P with situational and personality predictors. Barling, et al. 2009 reviews existing studies linking various demographic and individual difference variables as predictors of CWB. Dalal 2005 discusses potential confounds that might affect the observed counterproductive work behavior–organizational citizenship behavior (CWB-OCB) relationship, and summarizes relationships of CWB and OCB with their antecedents. Marcus, et al. 2016 uses a structural meta-analysis and an empirical study to examine the internal structure of CWB.

  • Barling, Julian, Kathryne E. Dupré, and E. Kevin Kelloway. “Predicting Workplace Aggression and Violence.” Annual Review of Psychology 60 (2009): 671–692.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163629E-mail Citation »

    The authors reviewed empirical evidence on nine common myths about the predictors of workplace aggression (CWB). Specifically, there were consistent relationships between personality variables and workplace aggression (CWB), but workplace experiences also explained the variance of workplace aggression (CWB).

  • Berry, Christopher M., Deniz S. Ones, and Paul R. Sackett. “Interpersonal Deviance, Organizational Deviance, and Their Common Correlates: A Review and Meta-analysis.” Journal of Applied Psychology 92.2 (2007): 410–424.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.2.410E-mail Citation »

    This meta-analysis found that CWB-P and CWB-O were strongly related, and they had similar relationships with age, emotional stability, openness to experience, and procedural justice. However, CWB-P was more strongly related to agreeableness, and CWB-O was more strongly related to conscientiousness. Organizational citizenship behavior was more related to CWB-O than CWB-P.

  • Dalal, Reeshad S. “A Meta-analysis of the Relationship between Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Counterproductive Work Behavior.” Journal of Applied Psychology 90.6 (2005): 1241–1255.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.90.6.1241E-mail Citation »

    This meta-analysis was conducted to clarify the inconsistent findings on the relationship between organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and CWB. While there was a modest negative relationship between OCB and CWB, the relationship was moderated by source of ratings (self or supervisor), presence of antithetical items (dysfunctional behaviors as reversed coded OCB items), and type of response options (agreement or frequency).

  • Hershcovis, M. Sandy, Nick Turner, Julian Barling, et al. “Predicting Workplace Aggression: A Meta-analysis.” Journal of Applied Psychology 92.1 (2007): 228–238.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.1.228E-mail Citation »

    In this meta-analysis, the authors found that trait anger and interpersonal conflict were strongest predictors of CWB-P, while interpersonal conflict, situational constraints, and job dissatisfaction were strongest predictors of CWB-O. Among individual difference variables, gender and trait anger were stronger predictors of CWB-P than of CWB-O; among situational predictors, interpersonal conflict was a stronger predictor of CWB-P, while job dissatisfaction and situational constraints were stronger predictors of CWB-O.

  • Marcus, Bernd, O. Anita Taylor, Stephanie E. Hastings, Alexandra Sturm, and Oliver Weigelt. “The Structure of Counterproductive Work Behavior: A Review, a Structural Meta-analysis, and a Primary Study.” Journal of Management 42.1 (2016): 203–233.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206313503019E-mail Citation »

    The authors first conducted a meta-analysis and found that a reflective higher-order factor model fitted the data the best. In a second study, confirmatory factor analysis results revealed that the best fit was a bimodal (nonhierarchical) model in which individual CWBs simultaneously load on one of the eleven facets describing their content and on one of three factors describing the target primarily harmed (organization, other persons, self).

  • Martinko, Mark J., Michael J. Gundlach, and Scott C. Douglas. “Toward an Integrative Theory of Counterproductive Workplace Behavior: A Causal Reasoning Perspective.” International Journal of Selection and Assessment 10.1–2 (2002): 36–50.

    DOI: 10.1111/1468-2389.00192E-mail Citation »

    In this review, the authors integrated several theories that were developed to explain and understand the process of CWB. By doing so, the authors developed a causal reasoning framework in which they proposed that individuals’ attribution about the causal dimensions of workplace events is the primary driving factor of emotions and behaviors, and subsequent CWB.

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