Productive and Counterproductive Behaviors in Organizational Psychology


The performance of any business organization is based on the levels of performance, job commitment, and devotion that its employees display. In other words, organizations are communities of people united by joint goals, and the success of an organization is the result of the joint work of its members. Organizational psychology studies how people perform their working functions and the reasons they perform those functions in this or that way. As a result, organizational psychology operates with the notions of productive and counterproductive behavior. These notions characterize the attitudes employees have towards their working functions and the quality of their fulfillment. Thus, productive and counterproductive behaviors are the opposite sides of one’s work and the dominant type of behavior determines either success or failure of the work.

Basic Definitions

Productive Behavior

Accordingly, to be well aware of the topic of productive and counterproductive behavioral patterns, it is necessary to define both. To do this, scholarly works by Spector (2005) and Yusoff (2005) can be used. Thus, Spector (2005) defines productive behavior as the behavior that combines “ability, motivation, and the personal characteristics” of an employee dedicated to the achievement of the working goals (Spector, 2005). Spector (2005) and Yusoff (2005) also argue about the so-called organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), which is the stronger form of the productive behavior that involves strict compliance to the organizational rules and altruism aimed at the company’s benefit (Spector, 2005; Yusoff, 2005). Both productive behaviors as such and organizational citizenship behavior are positive features of an employee that allow him or her to become a better-paid worker.

Counterproductive Behavior

As for counterproductive behavior, Spector (2005) views it as the set of activities that are unacceptable in society, i. e. “aggression, mistreatment, sabotage & theft” (Spector, 2005). Defining counterproductive behavior, Spector (2005) goes further to argue that it is “Intentional behavior that harms the organization or organization members” (Spector, 2005). At the same time, Yusoff (2005) includes a wider range of notions into the concept of counterproductive behavior, so that the latter includes “placing the additional burden upon workgroup members through individual lateness, absence, and labor turnover” besides “aggression, sabotage, and theft” (Yusoff, 2005). On the whole, counterproductive behavior can be viewed as the opposite of the productive one in its negative impact upon the performance of the organization as a whole and every single employee in particular. Counterproductive behavior is a serious threat to the organization’s success.

Productive and Counterproductive Behaviors’ Impact


Needless to say, the impact of the productive and counterproductive behavioral patterns upon the organization and its employees are opposite. Productive behavior influences every single employee of an organization in a positive way (Spector, 2005). An employee displaying the signs of productive behavior becomes able to more efficient work in the organization when he or she is committed to its goals and values. Also, the employee can earn more working with a greater commitment, and the attention of the management can be attracted to such an employee, which might place him or her in an advantaged position in the workplace (Yusoff, 2005). The negative impacts of the counterproductive behavior for every employee include the lack of concentration and discipline, absence of care about the work outcomes, intentional or careless damage to the organizational equipment, etc.


The impacts of the productive and counterproductive behavioral patterns at the organizational level can also be observed. The productive behavior allows the organization to build a friendly and cooperative environment inside so that to ensure the joint work of all the employees for achieving the organizational goals (Spector, 2005). If the employees display productive behavior or even organizational citizenship behavior, it becomes easier for the organization to develop to the planned levels of financial performance because all the workers are focused on it. If not, such behavior is called counterproductive, and its impact at the organizational level is rather serious. Thus, Yusoff (2005) argues that the employee theft cases amount to $200 billion annually around the world, and “employee theft accounts for more loss than shoplifting” (Yusoff, 2005). Drawing from this, it is obvious that the productive behavioral patterns constitute a great advantage for any organization, while the counterproductive ones make up a major threat.

Recommendations and Conclusions

To avoid counterproductive behavior or fight it in an organization, it is necessary to either motivate employees or increase their loyalty and job satisfaction levels so that to prevent counterproductive behavior by cultivating the productive one. Thus, productive behavior can be promoted by the system of punishment and rewards and by clear visualization of the benefits that every employee would obtain when the organization achieves its goals (Spector, 2005). Fighting counterproductive behavior is more complicated as it involves finding out the counterproductive employees, special educational or punishment measures taken in their respect, and the preventive measures to avoid counterproductive behavior cases in the future (Yusoff, 2005). Drawing from this, it is obvious that the productive behavioral patterns constitute a great advantage for any organization, while the counterproductive ones make up a major threat.


  1. Spector, P. E. (2005). Productive and Counterproductive Behavior.
  2. Yusoff, H. B. (2005). An Intelligent Prediction Of An Employee’s Counterproductive Behaviour.
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