Friends of the Behavioral Economics Blog, this week we present the paper “The relationship between personality, organizational and interpersonal counterproductive work challenges in industry 4.0” by Szostek, D.; Balcerzak, A. P. and Rogalska, E. (2020), in which authors study whether personality traits are related to counterproductive behaviors at work.

Counterproductive behavior at work is a topic of growing interest, both among behavioral economists and among organizational managers.

This is due to the high costs that these behaviors have for companies and in general, for all types of organizations; in addition to negative social consequences.

To this we must add the importance of the issue due to the role of human resources departments in today’s industry and its challenges.

But what are counterproductive behaviors exactly? In the world of work, they are be understood as a set of acts that, although different, share the characteristics of being volitional and damaging, or having the intention of damaging, organizations and/or the organization’s interested parties, such as clients, co-workers or supervisors.

Behavioral economics and psychology argue that the conditions for counterproductive behaviors are complex and can be divided into organizational situational, non-organizational situational, and individual.

Organizational reasons, as the name suggests, mainly result in negative behaviors directed negatively to the organization. For example, unfair pay, boredom at work, or job dissatisfaction.

Interpersonal reasons lead to behaviors directed at other people, such as an argument between colleagues or a low quality of relationships at work.

The individual reasons can be social, economic, technological, legal, environmental, psychosomatic, demographic… Therefore, they must be analyzed in a specific context, since the results cannot be easily generalized.

A very important factor that could determine the tendency to commit counterproductive behaviors is the personality.

Analyzing the impact it has (if any) and how this relationship is tempered by employee demographics, could help to understand better both personality and counterproductive behaviors. In addition, it could help to find new practical ways to reduce the latter.

Therefore, the authors try to achieve two objectives in this article.

On one hand, determine how employee personality traits affect counterproductive behavior at work.

On the other hand, to determine how the impact of the personality traits of the employees on the counterproductive behavior is moderated by the demographic and professional characteristics of the employees, if there is a relationship between the two concepts.

To do this, a survey was conducted in April 2020. The sample were 454 people included and active in the world of work in the Polish context.

Because there are many models for studying personality and its traits, authors decided to use the five factor model, or Big Five, which is the most scientifically researched and proven model.

This model takes into account the traits of extraversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism, kindness and openness, which were the factors studied.

The results suggested that the strongest predictors of counterproductive behaviors are the factors of kindness and conscientiousness. In the case of kindness, the relationship is positive; in the case of consciousness, negative.

This should come as no surprise, as employees who score higher on consciousness tend to avoid counterproductive behaviors. On the other hand, employees who score higher on kindness, are empathetic and try not to get in conflict, hence neither a negative relationship.

Demographic variables, such as time of employment, and type of work, significantly moderated the relationship between personality traits and counterproductive behaviors.

Furthermore, these results would be consistent with the findings of previous studies mentioned in the article.

One of the limitations of the study is that it is only carried out with Polish population in the context of this country, so the results may not be extrapolated to the rest of the world.

Authors, however, consider that the results obtained may be important for human resources management in the reality of today’s growing role of human resources.

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