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To fight, sabotage or steal: are all forms of employee misbehaviour created equal?

Kim Southey (School of Management and Enterprise, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 5 September 2016




The endless manifestation of employee misbehaviours can be classified according to Robinson and Bennett’s (1995) employee deviance typology. Using this typology, the purpose of this paper is to examine the level of “judicial” tolerance for offences committed by employees across Australian workplaces that culminated in an arbitration hearing before the country’s federal industrial tribunal.


A content analysis was performed on 565 misbehaviour related, unfair dismissal arbitration decisions made by Australia’s federal industrial tribunal between July 2000 and July 2010. Using the count data that resulted, a logistic regression model was developed to determine which unfair dismissal claim characteristics influenced whether or not a dismissal was deemed to be an appropriate course of disciplinary action.


The results suggest that an arbitrator’s gender, experience and background have influence on his or her decision. Significance tests also verified that personal aggression, production deviance, political deviance and property deviance were all considered unacceptable in Australian workplaces. Importantly, the results enable the ordering of the range of tolerance. From this ordering, a picture emerged as to what factor may be framing the extremities of the arbitrators’ tolerance for the misbehaviours: the target (or victim) of the behaviour.

Research limitations/implications

Unfair dismissal claims that are settled through private conciliation, as they occur off the public record, could not be included in the analysis.

Practical implications

Society’s implicit stakeholder interest in what constitutes appropriate workplace behaviour is further testament to the HRM obligation to facilitate sustainable workforces. Management should consider whether dismissing a misbehaving employee is a reactionary approach to broader organisational issues associated with employee well-being and cultural norms. In order to contribute to sustainable workforces, HRM policies and actions should focus on limiting triggers that drive misbehaviour, particularly behaviours that result in harm to individuals as a matter of priority, followed closely by triggers to behaviours that result in harm to organisational profitability.


This paper presents new insights about the degrees to which various forms of employee misbehaviour are accepted in the workplace.



Southey, K. (2016), "To fight, sabotage or steal: are all forms of employee misbehaviour created equal?", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 37 No. 6, pp. 1067-1084.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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