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Wilfrid Laurier University School of Business & Economics
April 21, 2014
 
 
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Business: Organizational Behaviour/Human Resource Management (OB/HRM) Area

Research Tidbit: When and why do teams behave badly and what can managers do about it? New research challenges the assumption that employee autonomy is always a good thing.

New Research from Dr. Manuela Priesemuth (OB/HRM)

Mar 25/13

Have you ever wondered why some work teams seem to have more politics and bad behavior than others? New research from Dr. Manuela Priesemuth (Wilfrid Laurier University) and her colleagues suggests that bad behavior in work teams is influenced by the organization and by the way that the tasks are structured in work units.

A common assumption is that promoting employee autonomy and independence can have positive implications for organizations. However, this research found that employees are more likely to behave badly in teams when they do not have a high degree of dependence on others in the team.

Moreover, these negative implications can be inadvertently exacerbated by the organization – the emergence of self-serving political behavior and deviant workplace behavior is particularly likely when employees believe that their organization is unfair and they are in a work team that does not have a high level of dependence.

Preventing employee misbehavior is an important organizational problem since these behaviors are not only costly for organizations (e.g., lowered performance, more litigation), but also have significant negative consequences for employees (e.g., lowered psychological health).

What does this research mean for organizations? First, promoting fairness is a critical step towards creating an environment where these bad behaviors are less likely to occur in the first place. This means ensuring that the outcomes, procedures, and interpersonal treatment in the organization are perceived to be fair (e.g., by implementing procedures consistently across employees, treating employees with respect). Second, organizations and managers need to be cautious in the design and structure of work units’ tasks. This includes ensuring that the level of dependence in a work group is appropriate for the tasks being completed. When low levels of dependence are needed to complete tasks, managers may need to focus on increasing face-to-face interactions and increasing interdependence amongst employees in other ways (e.g., celebrating achievements within the work unit and tying individual contributions to organizational goals).

For more information about this research, please contact Dr. Manuela Priesemuth (mpriesemuth@wlu.ca).

The full article is available at: http://gom.sagepub.com/content/38/2/230.abstract

Priesemuth, M., Arnaud, A., & Schminke, M. (2013). Bad behavior in groups: The impact of overall justice climate and functional dependence on counterproductive work behavior in work units. Group & Organization Management, 38, 230-257.

Abstract:

Recent research shows the powerful impact of counterproductive behavior in teams. This study explores how team characteristics combine to influence bad behavior in groups. It builds upon recent work in organizational justice by exploring the relationship between overall justice climate and work groups’ deviant and political behavior. Findings suggest that the structure of the work itself, in the form of functional dependence, moderates this relationship. Specifically, it is argued that the relationship between injustice climate and deviant and political behavior will be strongest when functional dependence between employees is low. Results from a sample of 539 employees and 113 supervisors in 113 work units support the hypotheses.

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