Blog Overview Blogger Profiles Event Calendar

You can also visit our other sites: Workplace Wellness Info on
| Share: | more

Office stress? Workers may wait before acting out

Companies may be underestimating the impact of office stress on negative employee behaviour because they assume it only happens immediately after a stressful change
Photo: business temptation

From the San Francisco State University media release:

Employers know that dramatic changes in the workplace, such as the start of the "busy season" or a new, more demanding boss, can cause employees to act out in ways that hurt the bottom line.

But a new study suggests that companies may be underestimating the impact of such behavior because they assume it only happens immediately after a stressful change.

The research from SF State organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman shows that many employees wait weeks or months before engaging in "counterproductive work behaviors," like taking a longer lunch or stealing office supplies. As a result, this behavior, which by some estimates costs businesses billions of dollars annually, may actually be far more expensive.

"People don't just respond immediately with these deviant behaviors. They may also have a delayed response that isn't caught by the organization," said Eschleman, an assistant professor of psychology. "That means the organization is not taking into account long-term costs associated with these delayed behaviors."

Psychologists have known that high levels of workplace stress lead to counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs), but previous research had primarily looked at snapshots in time: an employee's response at one specific moment to his or her current level of stress. Eschleman and his colleagues wanted to know how and when employees handled changes in workplace stress, as well as whether workers' personalities affected their response.

Researchers surveyed employees in a variety of career fields three times over six months about stress at work and asked if they had engaged in various counterproductive work behaviors, or CWBs. They found that, as expected, increases in mg{stress} led to immediate increases in CWBs. But they also found something that is not often recognized by organizations: Some people who did not engage in such behavior at first nevertheless did so some weeks or months later.

"Maybe you don't have the opportunity to engage in these deviant behaviors right away, and you want to wait until no one is around," Eschleman said. "Or maybe you think you can cope right away, but then down the road you end up engaging in these behaviors."

That effect was especially seen in workers considered to be more "agreeable" (those who are cooperative, good-natured and trusting of the organization) or more "conscientious" (those who are ambitious, responsible and abide by ethical principles). While these individuals were less likely to engage in counterproductive behaviors initially, they were just as likely -- and the research suggests may be even more likely -- to do so later on.

Why? According to Eschleman, these workers have more "resources" available to help them cope with the increased stress, at least at first. For agreeable workers, that means there are more friends and other kinds of support to buck them up during tough times. Conscientious workers, for their part, receive more tangible benefits. Employers tend to invest money, benefits and more in employees they view as hard workers.

An effective training program, for instance, can make adjusting to a new computer system easier. Eventually, though, the added stress will win out for many: "Your personality might influence how you try to cope initially, but if things are bad for a really long time, it doesn't matter what your personality is. At the end of the day, you're going to do these deviant things," Eschleman said.

Companies should take care to tailor programs to help employees deal with stress, he added, since the research shows personality can complicate how and when employees respond.

"The moderating effects of personality on the relationship between change in work stressors and change in counterproductive work behaviors" by Kevin J. Eschleman, Nathan A. Bowling and David LaHuis was published online Oct. 3 in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology and can be read at

Next post: A winning attitude and personal support key to success 2017-01-11 09:35:35

Other posts tagged stress, sabotage, coworker conflict, behaviour, counterproductive work behaviours, employee engagement, resiliency:
· [A winning attitude and personal support key to success] · [Toxic bosses are bad for your health and bad for your corporate reputation] · [Employers need to do more to encourage staff to switch off at home] · [Bullying makes men leave the labor market] · [Male athletes more likely to choke under pressure] · [High status job means you are less likely to respond to treatment for depression] · [How workplace stress contributes to cardiovascular disease] · [Study identifies specific work factors that predict sleep problems] · [Mindfulness in the workplace improves employee focus, attention, behavior, new management-based research concludes] · [Worrying about work when you are not at work] · [Anxious? Depressed? Blame it on your middle-management position]

Don't forget: there is a search box on every page!

Recent Posts:

A winning attitude and personal support key to success

Study finds ten strengths associated with high achievers, including winning attitudes and good support

Toxic bosses are bad for your health and bad for your corporate reputation

Bully bosses have unhappy and dissatisfied employees who seek to get even with the company, even though they do not realize it

Employers need to do more to encourage staff to switch off at home

Less than 50% of U.K. organisations surveyed provided their employees with guidance on how to switch off in their down time

Bullying makes men leave the labor market

Long-term consequences of workplace bullying on sickness absence: women generally go on prolonged sick leave or use antidepressants, men often choose to leave

Male athletes more likely to choke under pressure

Study finds women can respond better to competitive pressure than men in tennis tournaments, calls for further investigation in other real-life settings
Call us for more information: In Toronto and Area call 647.470.9087.
| Share: | more