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Title page for ETD etd-03282007-093528


Type of Document Dissertation
Author Ferguson, Merideth
Author's Email Address merideth.ferguson@owen.vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-03282007-093528
Title From Bad to Worse: A Social Contagion Model of Organizational Misbehavior
Degree PhD
Department Management
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Bruce Barry Committee Chair
Neta Moye Committee Member
Ray Friedman Committee Member
Sandra Robinson Committee Member
Keywords
  • workplace deviance
  • social contagion
  • misbehavior
  • Problem employees
  • Contagion (Social psychology)
  • Organizational behavior
Date of Defense 2007-02-12
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
Organizational misbehavior is defined as any intentional action by a member of an organization that violates core organizational and/or societal norms. Much of the literature on organizational misbehavior focuses on individual level determinants while giving very little attention to the social factors. Although some research indicates that organizational misbehavior is socially contagious, the mechanism that facilitates such transmission has not been theorized or meaningfully tested. I argue that a work group’s misbehavior influences individual member misbehavior through the creation of social information (i.e., awareness and prevalence of misbehavior), and this relationship is moderated by motivation (i.e., injustice), group factors (i.e., cohesion and informal sanctions) and personality (i.e., negative affectivity and honesty/humility). Using a longitudinal research design, I test this model by investigating the change in work team members’ behavior over time and using a sample of 47 work teams and 214 team members. My results indicate that interpersonally directed misbehavior (such as making fun of coworkers, political backstabbing, gossip, or ethnic, racial or religious remarks) and organizationally directed misbehavior (ie., stealing office supplies, surfing the internet instead of working, showing up late for work or taking a longer break than is permitted) are spread through the social information that team members have of their coworkers misbehavior. Perceptions of low work group cohesion, informal sanctions against misbehavior, and Honesty-Humility strengthened this relationship. Low interactional justice perceptions increased these effects for interpersonally directed misbehavior but not for organizationally directed misbehavior. Managers and organizational leaders can discourage this behavior through the recruitment and selection (hiring) process, managing organizational culture, and addressing issues of fairness and justice in the workplace.
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