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Task variety and counterproductive work behavior

Manuela Morf (Center for Human Resource Management (CEHRM), Universität Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland)
Anja Feierabend (Center for Human Resource Management (CEHRM), Universität Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland)
Bruno Staffelbach (Center for Human Resource Management (CEHRM), Universität Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 7 November 2017

Issue publication date: 15 November 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between task variety and counterproductive work behavior (CWB) and the relationship between change in task variety and change in CWB. CWB is proposed as being a behavior that serves as an outlet by which employees can express displeasure and acts as a substitute for a lack of interest when task variety is low.


This study analyzed survey data that were collected at two points in time (T1 and T2) from 515 employees with different occupations working in Switzerland.


Task variety at T1 negatively related to organizational CWB (CWB-O) at T2 and interpersonal CWB (CWB-I) at T2. Task variety at T1 was also related to a change in CWB-O and a change in CWB-I. However, change in task variety showed a non-significant relationship to change in CWB-O and change in CWB-I.

Research limitations/implications

Results indicated that employees tend to respond with CWB when task variety is permanently low and that CWB may even increase over time. Further studies that examine the dynamics between task variety and CWB are therefore recommended.

Practical implications

Findings inform the practice on the potentially harmful effects of unstimulating work designs and therefore have implications for how to better prevent CWB.


The two-wave data collection allowed for differentiation between the effect of the baseline level of task variety at T1 on CWB at T2 and the effect of a change in task variety on a change in CWB.



This work used data of the Swiss Human-Relations-Barometer project that was supported by the Ecoscientia Fundation. Special thanks go to Alexandra Arnold and Wiebke Doden for their support in data collection.


Morf, M., Feierabend, A. and Staffelbach, B. (2017), "Task variety and counterproductive work behavior", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 32 No. 8, pp. 581-592.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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