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Public Organiz Rev (2012) 12:357366

DOI 10.1007/s11115-012-0177-8

Dimensionality of Counterproductive Work Behaviors

in Public Sector Organizations of Pakistan

Sajid Bashir & Misbah Nasir & Saira Qayyum &

Ambreen Bashir

Published online: 15 June 2012

# Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Abstract This study attempts to analyze dimensionality of Counterproductive Work

Behavior (CWB) in public sector organizations of Pakistan. Previous studies identi-
fied different dimensions of CWB but they lack discussion on some unique counter
work behaviors which are facts of life in public sector organizations of many
developing countries including Pakistan. Analysis of data collected from 785 public
servants in Pakistan indicate that theoretical debate on dimensionality of CWB is not
exhaustive unless corruption is considered a major dimension of CWB in public
sector organizations.

Keywords Counter work behavior . Public sector . Dimensionality . Corruption


For decades study of employee behavior at workplace has remained an integral part
of industrial Psychology. The researchers in their endeavor to explain various work-
place behaviors have mainly focused on positive behaviors like organizational citi-
zenship behavior (OCB) (e.g. see Organ 1988, 1994; Organ and Ryan 1995;
Podsakoff and MacKenzie 1997). However in past couple of decades negative
behaviors commonly referred to as Counterproductive Work Behaviors (CWB) have
also received considerable attention in studies. Defined as intentional employee
behaviors those emasculate organizational interests (Sackett 2002; Chang and
Smithikrai 2010) and can even put organizational stability at stake (Martinko et al.
2002) it is exhibited in various forms within the organizations.

S. Bashir (*)
Mohammad Ali Jinnah University, Islamabad, Pakistan

M. Nasir : S. Qayyum : A. Bashir

Army Public College of Management and Sciences (APCOMS), Rawalpindi, Pakistan
358 S. Bashir et al.

While plethora of research mainly attempted to define CWB as a single construct,

few studies focused on delineating specific categories that can be termed as CWB
(e.g. see Robinson and Bennett 1995: Gruys and Sackett 2003; Marcus and Schuler
2004). The main limitation in considering CWB as a single construct is that various
forms of CWBs can not be equated since CWB ranges from petty theft among
employees to the large scale ethical collapses that have bankrupted enormous corpo-
rations (Harris et al. 2007).
Robinson and Bennett (1995) in their typology of CWB identified major dimen-
sions of CWB which later became a basis to study its dimensionality. However
majority of studies in their attempt to analyze important dimensions of CWB ignored
many aspects which were originally proposed by Robinson and Bennett (1995). For
example Gruys and Sackett (2003) considered 11 dimensions while Spector et al.
(2006) analyzed six dimensions of CWB to prove its dimensionality. Though most
important dimensions of CWB were covered by these researchers, still their applica-
bility in public sector organizations is not well established in literature. Similarly
dimensionality of CWB has mainly been discussed in developed countries like USA
described as tight cultures in literature. Erez and Gati (2004) consider loose
cultures to be more tolerant to CWB. Thus counter work behavior in one culture
may not be a CWB in another culture, and findings from developed/tight cultures
may not have similar implications for underdeveloped countries like Pakistan
having a loose culture.
Another important point which necessitates study of CWB in developing countries
is that, Robinson and Bennett (1995) reported a serious form of organizational
deviance as accepting kickbacks or financial corruption and this dimension is most
prevalent in developing Asian countries generally and in Pakistan specifically (Bashir
et al. 2011), no study as per knowledge of authors analyzed it as a dimension of CWB
in public sector organizations of a developing country. Thus apart from considering
other dimensions, this study will attempt to add a new dimension of CWB in public
management literature which remains unscathed in existing body of knowledge.

Dimensions of counterproductive work behavior

Robinson and Bennett (1995) identified four broad categories of CWB which are
production deviance, property deviance, political deviance and personal aggression.
These components were further sub divided into detailed categories like wasting
resources, accepting kickbacks, favoritism and verbal abuse etc. In later years differ-
ent studies analyzed various dimension of CWB. Gruys and Sackett (2003) consid-
ered two broad dimensions of CWB i.e. interpersonal-organizational dimension and
task relevance dimension. They further sub divided these dimensions into 11 catego-
ries. These detailed categories include theft, property destruction and unsafe behavior
etc. While Spector et al. (2006) focused their study to five dimensions of CWB which
are Abuse against others, Production Deviance, Sabotage, Theft and Withdrawal.
Abuse constitutes actions which are aimed at harming fellow workers and
are considered a direct from of aggression (Spector et al. 2006). The range of
abuse at work place can start from objectionable comments(Cortina and Magley
2003) verbal aggression (Porath and Erez 2009) to stressors like bullying at work
Dimensionality of Counterproductive Work Behaviors 359

(Vickers 2001; Saunders et al. 2007; Monks et al. 2009) and such acts can go on for a
longer time period (Ayoko et al. 2003). If corrective actions are not taken to control
this form of CWB, the organization has to ultimately bear its cost (Steffgen 2008) in
form of reduced performance (Altman and Akdere 2008) and increased turnover
(Baruch 2005).
Production deviance is another dimension which has been extensively researched.
In this type of CWB, the employee negatively affects organizational efficiency by
intentionally hampering quality and quality of work (Hollinger and Clark 1982). So
when employee purposefully does not perform a task which he was capable of
performing, he is indulged in production deviance (Spector et al. 2006). This is also
serious from of CWB, as an employee who was supposed to facilitate organizational
performance is intentionally creating hurdles against its success. Closely linked to
concept of production deviance is another dimension of CWB i.e. sabotage. In this act
employee is engaged in seditious activities and he damages the physical assets in the
organization (Chen and Spector 1992). Despite the fact that productive deviance is a
passive and sabotage is an active approach, theoretically both are intertwined
(Spector et al. 2006). Defaming your organization by criticizing it publically also
falls under purview of sabotage (Tucker 1993) while in the new era misuse of
information and communication technology against organizational interest is also
referred to as sabotage (Weatherbee 2010).
Theft is a dimension of CWB, through which the employee intends to intentionally
harm the organization (Niehoff and Paul 2000) and it can be a form of falsified records,
forgery, payroll frauds (Gabbidon et al. 2006) and stealing cash (Schmidtke 2007). It is
a problem for all business and all sectors including the public sector organizations
(Saucer 2007). Theft in organizations is facilitated by employee discontent (Bolin and
Heatherly 2001) dissatisfaction (Kulas et al. 2007) and a perception that they will not
be caught due to poor control system (Hollinger and Clark 1983). Since in USA
alone, each year billions of dollars are lost due to employee theft, organizations
should focus on controlling theft by formulating best possible policies and using well-
planned and well thought out security procedures (Lipman and McGraw 1988).
Similarly when employee remains absent, takes unauthorized breaks, attends late,
leaves early or takes a fake sick leave, the employee is involved in time theft and such
behaviors are commonly referred to as withdrawal (Spector et al. 2006; Kulas et al.
2007). Withdrawal has a unique place in domain of CWB (Marcus and Schuler 2004)

Corruption as a dimension of CWB in public sector organizations of Pakistan

While other dimensions of CWB holds significance in public sector organizations of

many countries including Pakistan, corruption is a most serious dimension of CWB
prevalent in these organizations. Cases of corruption has become prime public
concern in these countries (Bernardi and Vassill 2004)since it is the key barrier
against their social advancement(Luo 2005) which eradicates opportunities, dimin-
ishes resources (Blackburn and Puccio 2009) and hampers economic growth and
development(Larsson 2006). Due to its strong social implications debate on dimen-
sionality of CWB in public sector organizations of many underdeveloped countries,
without analyzing corruption remains incomplete. The dimension was originally
proposed by Robinson and Bennett (1995) when they categorized kickbacks as a
360 S. Bashir et al.

serious component of deviant workplace behavior. Its a bilateral arrangement

(Ackerman 2002) through which employee receives personal financial gain (Sherman
1980) deviating from formal job responsibilities (Mishra 2006) for illegally benefit-
ing a person or manipulating decision in his favor who bribes/pays kickbacks
(McKinney and Moore 2008).
Like many other developing countries, the public sector organizations in Pakistan
are facing the menace of corruption for many years and in recent past governments in
Pakistan have been toppled due to alleged charges of corruption. Transparency
International is an international coalition against corruption and for years it is
consistently reporting huge amounts being looted by corrupt officials in public sector
organizations of Pakistan. The corruption in public sector organizations is widespread
from petty transactions to big projects (Bashir et al. 2011).



Employees working in different public sector organizations were surveyed. To ensure

anonymity the identity of these organizations is not disclosed due to nature of
questions about involvement in kickbacks/corruption. The data collection activity
was completed between May, 2010 to November, 2010 and it was original data
collection by the authors.
The data was collected from different cities of Pakistan and from organizations
which are ranked high in corruption. This was determined on the basis of Transpar-
ency Internationals perception of corruption index (2009). This index lists different
public sector organizations from Pakistan which are ranked high in corruption. The
authors collected data using a questionnaire.
Table 1 summarizes the sample characteristics, 71 % respondents were male while
29 % were female. The sample composition with reference to gender to a large extent
represents population in public sector organizations of Pakistan. Most of the women
in Pakistan are supposed to look after their domestic responsibilities of looking after
children and family and generally they are not encouraged to work in organizations.
The sample is also quite diverse with reference to qualification and most of the
sample is well qualified which facilitated in questionnaire in English. Different age
groups are well represented in sample. Status wise a significant number of managers/
officers were requested to fill in the questionnaires as in most of corruption scandals
some senior mangers/officers were accused of different irregularities.


The questionnaire was adopted from Spector et al. (2006), with some modifications
for kickback questions. The respondents were required to respond on three item
category scale with 1 representing frequently, 2 representing occasionally and 3
representing never about various counterproductive work behaviors which they
observed in organizations. Initially 1200 questionnaires were distributed in 26 dif-
ferent public sector organizations. Keeping in view the sensitive nature of questions
Dimensionality of Counterproductive Work Behaviors 361

Table 1 Sample characteristics

Frequency Percentage
Male 555 71 %
Female 230 29 %
Age (years)
2025 125 16 %
2630 235 30 %
3135 155 20 %
3640 95 12 %
Above 40 175 22 %
Secondary School 70 09 %
Higher Secondary Schooling 235 30 %
Graduation 345 44 %
Masters 135 17 %
Official Status
Manager/Officer 330 42 %
Employee/Staff 445 58 %

respondents were ensured complete anonymity. Completed questionnaires were

received from 785 respondents, giving a response rate of 65 %. The complet-
ed questionnaires were collected in sealed boxes placed in offices for the

Results and discussion

Table 2 summarizes various dimensions of CWB that exist in public sector

organizations of Pakistan. It also highlights some unique aspects of CWB that
are prevalent in public sector organizations of Pakistan. Overall analysis of these
responses clearly indicates existence of CWB in various dimensions in quite high
and conspicuous from.
The present study is probably the first attempt in Pakistan to distinguish between
various forms of CWB in public sector organizations of Pakistan. Though there is a
general perception about these organizations of being inefficient and corrupt but its
contributory factors and extent of their role remained a mystery. This study is quite
helpful to understand unique dynamics of CWB in public sector organizations .
Although the setting is Pakistan, there are certainly wider applications in other
developing countries as well.
Misuse of time/resources and withdrawal appears to be the most threatening forms
of CWB that exists in public sector organizations of Pakistan. The response by public
servants regarding personal business during office hours is quite high (75 %). Due to
weak control systems that exist in public sector organizations of Pakistan, employees
are free to run their personal business with their jobs. If this response is analyzed with
362 S. Bashir et al.

Table 2 Dimensions of counterproductive work behaviors and percent reported

CWB Dimension/Items Frequently Occasionally Never

Do you think that employees in your organization
1. Purposely waste organizational material/supplies 72 % 13 % 15 %
2. Purposely damage organizational equipment/property 38 % 26 % 36 %
3. Purposely litter the place of work 48 % 23 % 29 %
Most of employees in my organization
1. Come to work late without permission 82 % 07 % 11 %
2. Stay at home and lie as being sick when actually not 69 % 18 % 15 %
3. Take longer breaks than allowed 79 % 10 % 06 %
4. Leave work earlier than allowed 66 % 20 % 14 %
I have seen many employees in my organization
1. Staling something belonging to the organization 45 % 18 % 37 %
2. Taking office supplies/tools home without permission 60 % 17 % 23 %
3. Taking money from the organization without permission 30 % 16 % 54 %
4. Stealing something belonging to someone at work 41 % 23 % 36 %
Misuse of Time and Resources
I have observed employees in my organization
1. Conducting personal business during official timings 75 % 15 % 10 %
2. Taking longer lunch/prayer breaks 90 % 03 % 07 %
3. Using organizational resources which are not authorized 83 % 07 % 10 %
4. Making personal long calls from official telephone 94 % 05 % 01 %
5. Using computer for games/chatting rather than duty 49 % 14 % 37 %
Employees in this organization
1. Deviate from formal job responsibilities for kickbacks. 49 % 10 % 41 %
2. Intentionally delay a job to receive kickbacks. 39 % 21 % 40 %
3. Ignore merit or rules for kickbacks. 43 % 16 % 41 %
4. Receive huge personal gains through kickbacks. 31 % 09 % 60 %
5. Illegally favor a person who pays bribe. 38 % 11 % 51 %

employees frequent late arrival (82 %), longer lunch breaks (90 %) and leaving office
early (66 %), one can understand how private business can be managed during
official work hours. Similarly you need to stay connected to run your business and
official telephone and computer is there to make free calls and emails which scored
94 % and 49 % respectively. The low usage of computer than official telephone is
probably due to reason that there is a vast majority of public servants specially the
older ones who dont know how to operate a computer. Thus a public sector job in
Pakistan is probably an ideal place to run your own business at the cost of organi-
zational resources and time.
Dimensionality of Counterproductive Work Behaviors 363

Robinson and Bennett (1995) consider sabotage as a most serious form of CWB in
an organizational context. The response by public sector employees in Pakistan
indicates prevalence of high level of sabotage in these organizations. Among
respondents 72 % witnessed employees purposely wasting organizational resources,
38 % reported observing employees damaging organizational property and 38 % saw
their colleagues littering workplace. Obviously such activities have no benefit for
employees to indulge in, but literature suggests that if employees are engaged in such
activities it is indicative of some serious flaws in the organizational policies and
procedures. Employees are generally engaged in these activities when they lack
commitment and are dissatisfied from job. This also reduces probability of positive
extra role behaviors like Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) which is quite
low among public sector employees in Pakistan (Bashir et al. 2011)
Incidents of theft in public sector organizations are also quite high. Employees not
only take office supplies with them to homes (60 %) but they are also engaged in
stealing official belongings (45 %) and belongings of other employees (41 %) as well.
But why employees resort to theft at their jobs. Spector et al. (2006) relate theft with
organizational injustice, so high levels of theft can be employee retaliation towards
organizational injustice exiting in public sector organizations of Pakistan. However
this can not be the only reason since a considerable number of employees (41 %) stole
something belonging to their coworkers. It also reflects level of ethical values among
public sector employees in Pakistan. Socially Pakistani society is facing high rate of
theft and robberies and this trend to a large extend is proliferated in public sector
organizations as well.
Employees involvement in kickbacks/corruption is quite high and the response
justify treating it as a dimension of counterproductive workplace behavior. The
responses indicate that employees delayed their official tasks and benefited individ-
uals who have bribed them. The response ranged from 31 % to 49 % for various
questions about kickbacks. Davis (2004) suggests that in certain countries paying
kickbacks has been institutionalized to the extent that most people do not consider
them as corruption. In such an environment the response rate though is alarming but
not unusual. Since this issue is a serous concern in many developing countries
(Bernardi and Vassill 2004), the concerned authorities need to take the issue seriously
. Eradication of corruption can ultimately benefit the masses as this the biggest barrier
for their social advancement (Luo 2005).
Spector et al. (2006) suggested examining counterproductive work behaviors
microscopically. Since employees engage in various forms of counterproductive work
behaviors for various reasons, there is a need to analyze different forms of CWB. It is
also pertinent to note that CWB which is relatively low in certain cultures has not
attracted the attention of researchers. Thus studies conducted on dimensionality of
CWB ignored corruption as a dimension, but the present study significantly
contributes understanding of CWB when it is studied in a different cultural and
organizational context i.e. public sector. Robinson and Bennett (1995) stressed
the need to study CWB comprehensively to identify various dimensions of CWB, and
this study identified and established a new dimension in CWB in addition to already
established dimensions.
Counterproductive Work Behaviors are perceived differently in different cultures
and findings of the present study strengths the significance of taking culture into
364 S. Bashir et al.

account for studying CWB. Kickbacks were not analyzed as a dimension of CWB in
earlier studies. This is probably due to the fact that for countries investigated in these
studies, kickback is not a common form of CWB. However in public sector organ-
izations of many underdeveloped countries like Pakistan, debate on CWB seems
incomplete if kickback is not taken in to consideration as its dimension.


The findings of the study not only enhance our understating of counter work
behaviors in the public sector organizations but at the broader level they helps to
explain some reasons for prevalence of corruption. Since it has become a routine activity
in public sector organizations, the findings of the present study further substantiate that
today it is an integral part of organizational culture in public sector organizations of
Pakistan. This prevalence of high rate of corruption also highlights the need for having
an effective control mechanism to curb the menace of corruption. Currently the institu-
tions established in Pakistan to control corruption have miserably failed.


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Sajid Bashir is working as Head/Assistant Professor, Department of Management Sciences, Mohammad

Ali Jinnah University, Islamabad, Pakistan. He received Ph.D. in Human Resource Management and has
worked on various HR related issues in Pakistan with a special focus on public sector organizations. His
work has appeared in leading international journal including the American Review of Public

Misbah Nasir completed her Maters degree with specialization in Human Resource Management from
Army Public College of Management Sciences (APCOMS), Rawalpindi, Pakistan. She has worked on
differnt topics including deviant workplace behaviors and organizational cynicism in public sector organ-
izations of Pakistan.

Saira Qayyum completed her Honors degree with specialization in Human Resource Management from
Army Public College of Management Sciences (APCOMS), Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Ambreen Bashir completed her Honors degree with specialization in Human Resource Management from
Army Public College of Management Sciences (APCOMS), Rawalpindi, Pakistan.