Positive and negative deviant workplace behaviors: causes, impacts, and solutions

Steven H. Appelbaum (John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.)
Giulio David Iaconi (John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.)
Albert Matousek (John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.)

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Publication date: 23 October 2007



The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact on organizations of both negative deviant workplace behaviors – those that violate organizational norms, policies or internal rules – and positive deviant workplace behaviors – those that honorably violate them. The reasons why people engage in such behaviors are explored, along with some of the reasons why organizations allow such behaviors to thrive within their walls. A typology of positive workplace behavior is determined and is compared with other pro‐social behaviors such as: whistleblowing, corporate social responsibility, organizational citizenship behavior and innovation. Possible solutions to overcome problems associated with negative deviant behavior in the workplace are examined, along with how to promote positive deviant behavior in the workplace.


A literature review on current positive and negative deviant workplace behavior was conducted.


Regardless of whether negative deviance is overt or implicit, it has negative consequences for the entity and its affiliates. The estimated impact of the widespread theft by employees on the US economy has been reported to be $50 billion annually. Toxic organizations depend on employees that are dishonest and deceitful in order to be successful. Furthermore, it is found that psychological empowerment is likely to be a key enabler of positive deviance.


It is proposed that the survival of an organization in the face of negative deviant employees is possible with a remodeling of an organization's norms, attitudes and social values to a specific organizational culture centered on important ethical core values; by addressing value differences between employee subcultures, and more frequent background checks when hiring. Adhering tightly to organizational norms may preclude positive deviant behaviors that would be beneficial to the organization, and thus employee psychological empowerment is recommended.



Steven H. Appelbaum, Giulio David Iaconi and Albert Matousek (2007) "Positive and negative deviant workplace behaviors: causes, impacts, and solutions", Corporate Governance, Vol. 7 No. 5, pp. 586-598

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: https://doi.org/10.1108/14720700710827176



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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