Incidences of workplace deviance behavior among nurses.

AuthorPalo, Sasmita

The present study addresses two fold objectives: to investigate acts of deviance and to examine the correlations between different demographic factors and acts of deviance among nurses. The study was carried out in hospitals located in Mumbai, Delhi and Chandigarh. Results indicate that the most frequently occurring acts of deviance are: loosing temper while at work, saying something hurtful to others and making fun of someone at work. The more striking finding is the use of illegal drugs or consumption of alcohol or tobacco while on duty. A few respondents discussed confidential information about hospitals and patients with unauthorized persons. Demographic factors such as age, gender, tenure, marital status indicated no significant relation with deviance.


In the light of the counterproductive incidents in the recent past and their ill after effects, there has been a surge of research and managerial interest in this area (Bennett & Robinson, 1995; Giacalone & Greenberg, 1997). Workplace deviance (WD) has been shown to be permeating in most sectors of the economy including manufacturing, retail, health care (Hollinger & Clark, 1983; Muafi, 2011). It is manifested in forms of changes in work punctuality, work attitude, performance, extended lunch breaks, tardiness, and many other incidences. The consequences of such behavior are critical because they can affect all levels of the organizations including decision-making, productivity, and financial costs (Appelbaum et al. 2007). Thus, WD is regarded as a cry for help and management's primal task is to recognize it and to take corrective action (Magyar, 2003).

The Measure of Workplace Deviance

There is currently no common definition or terminology regarding WD that is generally agreed upon (Robinson & Greenberg, 1998:3). In literature, deviant workplace behavior is used under different matronymics. Although the concepts are kindred, there may still be slim differences among them. The matronymics comprise organizational misbehavior, non-compliant behavior, antisocial behavior, workplace deviance, dysfunctional workplace behavior, counterproductive behavior, employee vice, workplace aggression, organizational retaliation behavior, and organization-motivated aggression (Peterson, 2002; Robinson & Greenberg, 1998).

For the purpose of this study, we have considered Robinson & Bennett's (1995) definition of WD. Inferring from Robinson & Bennett's (1995) definition, there are two aspects of WD. Firstly, deviant behavior is intentional and not committed by chance, and secondly it is a significant departure from the norms. Researchers like Hollinger & Clark (1983) proposed a typology in which counterproductive behaviors were classified into two comprehensive categories. The first is property deviance comprising acts concerning the misuse of employer resources including theft, property damage, and misuse of discount privileges. And the second category is production deviance which involves violations of norms concerning how the work is to be accomplished. This includes detracting from production (for example substance abuse, intentional slow) and from being on the job as slated (for example absence, long breaks). Robinson & Bennett (1995) further expanded this conceptual framework by adding a group of interpersonal counterproductive behaviors. They defined interpersonal deviance as that which is "targeted at members of the organization and includes behaviors such as saying something hurtful or acting rudely towards a coworker" and organizational deviance, as that which "is directed towards the organization and includes actions such as stealing and withholding effort". As part of their research, they came up with a two-dimensional typology, one dimension segregating behaviors towards the organization from those towards other organizational members; the other dimension denoted a continuum from minor to serious offenses. This deviant behavior taxonomy is still used widely and the variation across severity and target dimensions suggested by it, aids further theory generation.

Researchers have studied the relation between specific variables and workplace deviance. Many researchers (for example Lee & Allen, 2002; Henle, 2005) have examined situational factors. Situational factors referring to the organizational social context perceived by people, which may be influenced by others in the organization. Robinson & Bennett (1997) proposed that deviant behavior is often the result of the "perceived specific event(s) that triggers or provokes the employee to take a specific action". Other researchers have examined personal characteristics to be predictors of deviant behavior (for example Henle, 2005). In this study we have examined demographic factors as predictors of deviant behavior.

The Present Study

For this study, the hospital sector was chosen as the target sector as this is one sector where even the slightest deviance can be detrimental to the patient care. There are studies that examined positive deviance among nurses. However, a very few researchers have previously examined occurrence of negative deviance among nurses (Dabney, 1995; Lee & Allen, 2002). The present study has twin objectives to address i.e. to explore if the incidences of workplace deviance exists among the nursing staff and to what extent, and, how different demographic characteristics of the nursing staff such as age, experience, gender are correlated with workplace deviance?

Research has shown that males are more prone to counterproductive behaviors such as theft (Hollinger & Clark, 1983), and other forms of deviance than females (Mangione & Quinn, 1975). Other researchers have contradicted this (for instance Fagbohungbe et al., 2012). Similarly, older employees tend to be more honest and engage less in theft vis-a-vis younger workers (Mangione & Quinn, 1975; Hollinger, 1986; Peterson, 2002). Higher tenure has been posited to be related to less property deviance (Hollinger, 1992; Appelbaum et al., 2007). It is likely that the employees with higher tenure will act more ethically and the likelihood of engaging in deviance would be less (Appelbaum et al., 2005; Peterson, 2002). Employees who have "low-paying positions" are more likely to engage in acts of deviance (Peterson, 2002). Based on this literature, we hypothesize the following:

  1. Male nurses are more likely...

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