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Employee Misbehaviour at Work: A Home Away from Home

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Employee misbehaviour at work: a home away from home

As Vardi and Wiener (1996) point out, Organisational scientists and practitioners are becoming ever more conscious of the increasing instances of organisational misconduct and the resulting significance of it’s consequences for organisations. With this in mind, I will examine the factors which are making the workplace a home away from home. These include internet misuse, telephone conversations, social conversations etc, and are potentially costly to employers. I will approach the topic moving from the general to the specific starting with a definition of organisational misbehaviour before moving on to look at research evidence which highlights the extent to which the abuse is taking place. We will then examine theories including spillover and compensation theories and clark's border crossing theory and assess their short comings for example that they fail to incorporate the leisure life realm. Finally I will examine research by d'abate (2005) which highlights more of the factors behind employee personal business on the job before offering my own conclusions as to how I see the research discussed in this essay contributing to theory and finally making my own suggestions in regard to future research.

Organisational misbehaviour has been defined as any intentional action by members of organisations that violates core organisational and/or societal norms (vardi and weiener, 1996). The phenomena tends to be universally practiced throughout an organisation’s hierarchy of workers with instances being recorded for both management and non-supervisory members alike (Vardi and Wiener, 1996), with The types of misbehaviour engaged in by employees being categorised in to two rather broad categories Production, and property deviance, deviance being the term used to define misbehaviour by sociologists.

Production deviance includes by it’s nature any type of behaviour such as substandard work, failure to work to one’s potential, or anything else that may bring about counterproductivity, where as property deviance refers to misbehaviour toward property and or assets of the organisation such as vandalism, embezzlement or theft (Hollinger, 1986).

While research pertaining to both these categories is commendable in addressing the types of employee misbehaviour and their associated causes, much of it is relevant to a diminishing era where factory and industrial work was the norm. In today’s economy where white-collar service workers predominate, it is necessary to look at the more subtle forms of employee misbehaviour where greater employee autonomy and access to telephone and internet communications in the office have brought distractions such as nonwork related web surfing, gambling, on line shopping and various forms of adult entertainment right into the workplace.

In a recent study, D'Abate (2005) identified many of the activities which employees engage in on the job which they should be attending to in their home or leisure realms. These include, Using the phone to make calls regarding family, landlords, spouse or partner errands etc, engaging in social conversations

"we'll talk about the basketball game that was on last night, or the television show survivor,"

Leisure reading in the form of novels or newspapers such as the New York times or the Boston globe, making appointments, day dreaming, organising office betting pools etc, the list goes on and on. And this is not a new phenomena.

Over two decades ago, the ABA banking journal (1983) drew up a list to describe the various activities undertaken by loafers at work. These include the telephone chatters, rest-room minded and long lunchers. However with the arrival of the internet as Lim (2002) points out, employees now have the option of enjoying the finest that cyberspace has to offer to placate their personal interests and needs while maintaining the guise of being hard at work. As lim sums up, Cyberloafers unlike traditional long lunchers do not have to be absent from the office for inexplicably long periods of time nor do they have to worry about the visibility of their loafing as compared to the rest-room minded or those who hang out by the water cooler to converse. The extent to which employees misuse the net is reflected in a survey of 1000 US workers which reported that 64% of those surveyed surfed the net for personal use (the straits times, 2000, cited in Lin, 2002). The seriousness of this abuse has been highlighted by Verton (2000) who hypothesised that as much as 30 to 40% of employee productivity can be lost by unnecessary surfing of the internet for personal purposes. Much of this surfing is reflecting activity which should be carried out in the home

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