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How Workplace Deviance Can Impact Sleep

Counterproductive work behaviors are employee behaviors that can detrimentally affect the employee’s coworkers as well as the organization as a whole. Counterproductive work behaviors can be described on a spectrum. Some are more minor in nature, such as wasting time on the internet or frequent tardiness. Others are more serious, and sometimes even criminal in nature, such as theft or sexual harassment. Employees sometimes feel certain counterproductive work behaviors are justifiable. 

Previous research on counterproductive work behaviors has focused primarily on external consequences, such as disapproval from others. Limited research exists on the internal consequences of counterproductive work behaviors, although such behavior often results in guilt, regret, and sadness—all things that can impact one’s well-being.

Recent research in the Journal of Applied Psychology aimed to address this gap by examining how individuals felt about themselves after engaging in counterproductive work behaviors. In addition, they explored how those feeling impacted sleep patterns. Across two studies in China and the United States, respondents were asked to track their counterproductive work behaviors, thoughts, beliefs about their moral self-worth, and insomnia across two weeks. A third experimental study asked participants to recall a counterproductive work behavior in great detail and the affect it had on sleep the following day. All three studies found that individuals who engaged in counterproductive work behaviors experienced more emotional distress. This distress ultimately led to a decrease in sleep quality. The study concluded that although employees may view counterproductive work behaviors as adaptive and justified responses to workplace stress, these behaviors can end up being more detrimental on their own well-being.