Productive and Counterproductive Behavior in an Organization

In modern organizations, employees are hired with an aim of working effectively and utilizing the available resources in an efficient manner so as to optimize labor productivity. The management therefore anticipates that employees will exhibit productive behaviors in order to contribute towards achieving the organizational goals (Diego & Rizzi, 2010). However, some organizations are often faced with issues of counterproductive behaviors among their employees, which if not controlled, may have adverse effects on their operations. This paper therefore seeks to analyze the relationship between productive and counterproductive behaviors in an organization, and outline some measures that can be undertaken to curb counter productivity while encouraging productivity.

Definition of Productive and Counterproductive Behaviors

It is necessary to define productive and counterproductive behavior in organizations before examining their impacts and associated strategies. Productive behavior in an organization is defined as behaviors exhibited by workers, which contributes positively towards achieving organizational goals and objectives (Britt & Jex, 2008). Productivity behavior is therefore that which increases the general productivity in the organization. It is a positive rating that identifies those employees who work competently for the organization by self motivation and self supervision (Taomina, 2009). Productive behavior is divided into job performance, organizational citizenship and innovation. These three are used to determine positive levels of an individual’s behavior within an organization.

Counter-productive behavior on the other hand depletes the positive effects of productive behavior in the organization. It is defined as any intentional behavior exhibited by a member of an organization that is contrary to the organization’s legitimate interests (Britt & Jex, 2008).  Counter-productive behavior consists of property and production-based deviance that violates the implicit or explicit standards of generally accepted workplace behavior, and involves behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse, sexual harassment, theft and employee absenteeism among others. These behaviors may serve immediate needs of an employee but could ultimately destroy the interests of an organization (Diego & Rizzi, 2010). Both productive and counter-productive behaviors play critical roles in organizational productivity, besides being important component of organizational psychology.

Impacts on Organization and Performance

The difference between productive behavior and counterproductive behavior is that they are antonymous to each other. In other words, productive behavior eliminates counterproductive behavior and vice versa. In as much as productive behavior is a positive attribute that is encouraged by organizations, counter productive behavior is a vice that adversely affects performance of an organization and its members.

Firstly, on individual basis, productive behavior of an employee will result in salary increase and promotions, depending on the general performance of the organization. Besides, an organization that has a good reputation in respect to well behaved employees will build a powerful brand (Taomina, 2009). On the other hand, counterproductive behavior will, more often, lead to dismissal of the affected employees and therefore loss of livelihood.

Secondly, the performance of an organization is dependent on behaviors of its employees. Productive employees optimize the utilization of its resources while maximizing organizational output for the increased value to stakeholders. However, if employees of an organization engage in counterproductive behavior and activities, the organization will lose its value, leading to poor performance. We can therefore ascertain that performance of an organization is directly influenced by the behaviors of its employees.

Lastly, job performance among employees can easily be affected by productive and counterproductive behaviors. An employee with productive behavior will encourage other employees to follow suite and thereby creating synergy in performance. This increases labor productivity and ultimately better quality of products and/or services provided by the organization (Britt & Jex, 2008). In contrary, counter-productive employees may discourage or interrupt productive employees which will negatively impact of the general performance of organization.

Recommended Strategies

An in-depth understanding of productive and counterproductive behavior among employees will enable an organization to optimize productive behavior and suppress counterproductive behavior. Managers can therefore use the following guidelines in increasing productivity of their juniors:

The hiring managers should identify ethical orientation f each candidate seeking an opportunity to work in the organization. An oral or simple written examination will provide managers with essential information to determine the ethical orientation of job seekers. Ethical orientation can also be determined by calling references instead of just reading through the application letter (Taomina, 2009). The referees could provide factual information that will assist in selection of ethical employees.

Employees’ perceptions should also be understood by managers. A fair work environment should be created for employees with equitable policies will enable employees to have a positive perception about the organization. Positive perception will displace counterproductive behavior throughout the organization. However, since employees will not always reveal their feelings, other means like observing body language and behavioral signs may be used.

Senior managers of an organization should lead by example. They should abide by the same policies and procedures that they set and implement in the organization. The responsibilities assigned to employees should be matched with powers necessary to execute the responsibilities (Diego & Rizzi, 2010). Involving then to participate in making decisions that affect them will give them a sense of belonging and therefore develop positive attitudes. A challenging activity will keep an employee fixed to his tasks. This will not only increase their motivation, but also reduce the amount of time available for spreading counter-productivity behavior.

Lastly, managers can combat counterproductive behaviors in their organizations assertively without losing temper. They can stamp their authority by firmly making it clear that productive behavior is paramount for the success of the organization. Employees who have counterproductive behavior tend to prefer managers that do not fight back. When a manager keeps his cool, the counter-productive behavior will persist in the organization and mar escalate into dangerous situations.



Britt, T. W. & Jex, S. M. (2008). Organizational Psychology: A Scientist-Practitioner Approach. Wiley: New York.

Diego, P. & Rizzi, C. (2010). Understanding Socialization Practice: Factors fostering and hindering its evolution. Society and Business Review, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 144-154.

Taomina, R.J. (2009). Organizational Socialisation: The missing link between employee needs and organizational culture. Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 24, No. 7, pp 650-676.