deviance, workplace, reactions
The purpose of this study was to recognize and explore the reactions of employees to a deviant coworker. Specifically, I focused on the potential positive effects for employees who are in the presence of a coworker perceived as deviant, dysfunctional, or negative. Consistent with a labeling perspective on deviance, I argued that an employee may become a deviant as a result of social construction, fostered either by observed norm violations or the perceived dissimilarity of this person. Drawing on diverse theories from social psychology and sociology, I hypothesized that in the presence of a deviant coworker, other employees may have enhanced self-evaluations, better role clarity, and improved cohesiveness in work units. First, observers can set a contrast with the deviant and draw positive conclusions about themselves. Second, the "bad apple" can inform employees about organizational norms and alert them about "don't do" rules on the job, thereby improving their role clarity. Finally, by derogating the deviant, non-deviant members can unite against a "common enemy" and boost work unit cohesiveness. Positive effects were also expected to be contingent on individual characteristics and situational factors. In particular, social comparison orientation, coworkers' salience, and agreement about the deviant were hypothesized to strengthen observers' reactions to the deviant. The character of the deviant label and job interdependence, however, were expected to have a more complicated moderating role on the deviant's influence. Two samples generated from separate data collections were used to test the hypotheses. The positive relationship between the deviant's presence and employees' self-evaluations was supported. For employees with more interdependent jobs, role clarity was also positively associated with the presence of a deviant coworker. Contrary to predictions, cohesiveness was found to be lower for work units with a deviant employee at both individual and aggregate levels. Conceptual and empirical pitfalls relevant to the non-significant or opposite-to-prediction relationships are addressed. Finally, theoretical and managerial implications are discussed.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Business Administration
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Markova, Gergana, "Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining: Positive Effects Of Deviant Coworkers" (2006). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 754.