Workplace Misbehavior: Deviance, Aggression & Political Behavior

Instructor: Allison Tanner
Workplace misbehavior can be destructive to the business and a distraction for the workers. This lesson will discuss the various forms of misbehavior that can affect the workplace.

Workplace Misbehavior

Your professor assigned a research paper to help your class better understand workplace misbehavior, or employee actions that harm co-workers or the company.

It is easy to find information on famous cases of workplace misbehavior. There is the investigation of Enron and its infamous bankruptcy uncovered internal threats of violence, manipulation and coercion of employees to 'keep quiet' about the illegal activities of Enron executives. In another famous case, a U.S. post office worker shot and killed several people, including a co-worker who had received a promotion the gunman had wanted. Both of these are extreme examples of workplace misbehavior, but they show that misbehavior can come in many forms.

Types of Misbehavior

A quick google search will show that deviance is an umbrella term for workplace misbehavior. This means that deviance is a type of workplace misbehavior that can come in many forms. As a whole, deviance is any conscious or purposeful action that moves the work environment away from company norms and damages the company and its culture in the hopes of achieving a desired goal.

  • A closer look at deviance and you will find many forms of deviance including aggression, which can be exhibited by physical or emotional disputes between two or more co-workers.
  • Then there is political behavior in the workplace, which includes poor leadership practices such as favoritism; or it can be a co-worker's attempts to damage your reputation in order to get a raise.
  • There is information on theft, including small things like taking home office supplies, which is considered property deviance.
  • Finally, there is productivity deviance, where employees are wasting company time.

Each of these has the goal of damaging the company, someone in the company, or the company culture.


In order to fully understand deviance, it is important to provide examples of all forms of workplace misbehavior. Digging through websites you are likely to come across several articles that discuss workplace aggression.

Aggression is often understood as physical or something you can see and feel such as grabbing, shoving, or punching. However, the research tells you that there are commonly discussed forms of workplace aggression, such as physical abuse or sexual harassment, but there are many other ways that aggression can be displayed.

For instance, people who use the silent treatment, such as ignoring you when they are upset, are using a form of aggression known as passive aggression. Passive aggression can also be exhibited by an employee who shows up late to every meeting because they want to cause a disruption. When someone behaves passive aggressively they are trying to harm a person or the company through non-physical and non-verbal means.

Of course there is more than passive aggressiveness and you can find a wealth of information on verbal aggression. This research may really help you to understand that when someone demeans you or belittles you by saying you are stupid or wondering if you're capable of getting anything right, that can be considered aggression!

From all of these findings you might conclude that aggression can be exhibited by physical, passive, or verbal actions.

Political Behavior

When you conduct your research you find that politics in the workplace is more than just who gets a raise and who gets more hours. The core of workplace politics is the actions people take to get the raise or the extra hours.

Imagine you work with a young employee named Stacy. She always brings in donuts and compliments the owner; eventually, she is promoted to manager. This is an example of playing politics in the workplace which can be very frustrating for staff.

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