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Why cyberloafing can be socially learned in the workplace: the role of employees' perceived certainty of formal and informal sanctions

Jinnan Wu (School of Business, Anhui University of Technology, Maanshan, China)
Mengmeng Song (School of Management, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China)
Pablo Zoghbi-Manrique-de-Lara (Department of Economics and Business, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain)
Hemin Jiang (International Institute of Finance, School of Management, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)
Shanshan Guo (School of Business, Anhui University of Technology, Maanshan, China)
Wenpei Zhang (School of Business, Anhui University of Technology, Maanshan, China)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 12 July 2022

287

Abstract

Purpose

This study investigated why employees' cyberloafing behavior is affected by their coworkers' cyberloafing behavior. By integrating social learning theory and deterrence theory, the authors developed a model to explain the role of employees' perceived certainty of formal and informal sanctions in understanding the effect of coworkers' cyberloafing behavior on employees' cyberloafing behavior.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a survey that involved a two-stage data collection process (including 293 respondents) to test our developed model. Mplus 7.0 was used to analyze the data.

Findings

The results revealed that employees' cyberloafing was positively affected by their coworkers' cyberloafing both directly and indirectly. The indirect effect of coworkers' cyberloafing on employees' cyberloafing was mediated by the employees' perceived certainty of formal and informal sanctions on cyberloafing. Employees' perceived certainty of formal and informal sanctions were found to mediate the relationship both separately (each type of sanctions mediates the relationship individually) and in combination (the two types of sanctions form a serial mediation effect).

Originality/value

The study reveals an important mechanism – employees’ perceived certainty of formal and informal sanctions – that underlies the relationship between coworkers' cyberloafing and employees' cyberloafing, thus, contributing to the cyberloafing literature. It also demonstrates the importance of negative reinforcement (perceived sanctions) in the social learning process, which contributes to the literature on social learning theory because previous studies have primarily focused on the role of positive reinforcement. Lastly, the study reveals a positive relationship between employees' perceived certainty of formal sanctions and informal sanctions, which has important implications for deterrence theory.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Award Nos. 71901201 and 72172002), the Anhui Provincial Natural Science Foundation (Award No. 1908085MG226) and the Philosophical and Social Science Key Foundation of Anhui Province (Award No. AHSKZ2020D19).

Citation

Wu, J., Song, M., Zoghbi-Manrique-de-Lara, P., Jiang, H., Guo, S. and Zhang, W. (2022), "Why cyberloafing can be socially learned in the workplace: the role of employees' perceived certainty of formal and informal sanctions", Information Technology & People, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-06-2021-0464

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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