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The Role of Emotion in Employee Counterproductive Work Behavior: Integrating the Psychoevolutionary and Constructivist Perspective

The Role of Emotion in Employee Counterproductive Work Behavior: Integrating the Psychoevolutionary and Constructivist Perspective

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LID AND P E RREWE

spectives that have been used include social learning theory (Bandura, 1977) ,
justice theory (Greenberg, 1 990) , and attribution theory (Martinko, Gundlach,
& Douglas, 2001 ; Martinko & Zellars, 1998) .
It is worth noting that, despite the increasing volume of research on this
topic, there has been relatively little effort exploring the role of emotion in em­
ployees' conducting CWE. Imagine an extreme situation in which a person has
no feelings of anger. Facing a colleague 's insulting language or action, he or
she might simply inquire why the colleague would have done so, and then ra­
tionally find out where the problem lies and try to solve it. Chances are that the
insulting behavior will be stopped and the problem solved without any major
influences on the subsequent interaction between the two (although in some
instances the apparent calmness of the target may even further irritate the per­
petrator, such as when he or she interprets the calmness as arrogant or pre­
tending) . Unfortunately, in daily organizational life, insulting behavior often
leads to strong feelings within the target, such as guilt, shame, and anger (Ga­
briel, 1 998). Negative emotions such as anger often motivate retaliations such
as attacking back in the same manner, which is often how CWE is induced in
organizations (cf. Folger & Skarlicki, 1998). It is not hard to imagine that em­
ployees who conduct such violent behaviors as shooting a supervisor or physi­
cally attacking a coworker must have undergone some strong inner emotional
experiences. Of course, it is fair to say that not all CWEs have to do with emo­
tions. For example, checking personal e-mails during working hours or work
avoidance often have more to do with poor work ethics than emotions. How­
ever, it is still quite possible for emotions to play a significant role. For exam­
ple, intentionally slowing the pace of work may well involve strong emotions
such as anger toward the supervisor.
Our review of the literature revealed some research addressing the role of
emotion in CWE. Spector and Fox (2002) argued that emotions play a central
role in CWE. Specifically, they proposed that negative emotions are likely to
lead to CWE, especiaIIywhen employees are exposed continuously to emotion­
arousing events. Martinko and colleagues (2001 ) argued that feelings of guilt,
shame, anger, and frustration mediate the relationship between individual at­
tribution of perceived disequilibrium in the workplace and subsequent CWE.
In their empirical studies, Fox and colleagues (Fox & Spector, 1999; Fox,
Spector, & Miles, 2001) found that negative emotions serve as a mediator
through which employee's experience of situational constraints induces CWE.
This line of research, however, left unexplored exactly how the emotional
mechanism functions as is involved in CWE. In addressing the gap in the cur­
rent literature, we draw on two influential theories of emotion and propose a
process model of CWE. We believe to identify the emotional antecedents of
CWE will help not only to understand it better, but also to control it effectively,
and, further, to enhance individual and organizational well-being.

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69

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
eWE has been defined as behaviors that have a direct and visible negative ef­

fect on either organizations or their members (e.g., Spector & Fox, 2002) . With
a few exceptions (e.g., Martinko et al., 2001 ) , passive forms of eWE (those di­
rected to self such as drug use and depression) have been ignored largely.
However, it seems appropriate to include such behaviors in the eWE category
because they tend to influence negatively productivity and will, over time, have
a corruptive influence on organizational climate (Robinson & O'Leary-Kelly,
1998). It is reasonable to expect that such less overt forms of eWE could at
times become equally harmful to both the organization and the individual.
Therefore, for the purpose of this chapter, we adopt a broad definition of eWE
to include all employee behaviors, intended or unintended, that are directed at
the organization, other organization members, clients and customers, or self,
and that have the potential to hurt organizational productivity and well-being.
Thus, according to our definition, behaviors such as expressing fake emotions
all the time, or consistently working overtime without attending to health
problem, may also belong within the eWE category.
The rest of the chapter is organized as the following: First, we introduce the
psychoevolutionary theory (Plutchik, 1980) and the constructivist view of emo­
tion (Averill, 1980). We then discuss how these two theories can be integrated
meaningfully and applied in an organizational setting. Next, we present a proc­
ess model, drawn from the psychoevolutionary theory, which explains eWE
from an emotion-based perspective. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a
theoretical framework within which eWE is understood better.
Although research on emotions in organizations has been a newly im­
merged area of interests to most organization researchers (Ashforth & Hum­
phrey, 1995; Fineman, 2000) , systematic research on human emotions can be
traced back to at least a century ago when William James ( 1884) asked, "What
is an emotion? " Since then, numerous emotion theories have developed in the
literature. Ashforth and Humphrey (1995) identified two streams of research
in the field of emotions that take very different approaches, the naturalist per­
spective and the social constructivist perspective. According to them, the natu­
ralist perspective takes a biological perspective, examining emotion based on
the physical reactions and individual genetic attributes; the social construc­
tionist perspective posits that emotions are learned, and they take on socially
defined meanings and rules in the process of learning. Both approaches have
developed a useful framework in explaining emotions, but do so with very dif­
ferent foci. Many researchers (e.g., Fineman, 2000; Lazarus, 199 1 ; Porter &
Samovar, 1998), however, believe that a sound theory of emotions should look
to the interplay of the two because neither of the two provides a complete un­
derstanding of human emotions. Following this school of thought, we built our

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theory based on the belief that the two poles of theorizing on emotion are not
necessarily contradictory rather they compliment each other.
Psychoevolutionary Theory of Emotion
Psychoevolutionary theory of emotion, developed by Plutchik (1980), is one of
the biological oriented theories of emotions. Building on Darwin's early work
on the expression of emotions of human beings and animals, Plutchik (1980)
posits that emotions serve as a basic function of survival by helping to organize
animal and human behavior in a way that is appropriate to the immediate envi­
ronment. Emotions are described as having a purpose, either unconscious or
deliberate. Plutchik (1980) proposed that the purpose of emotion is adapta­
tion, and that emotions are activated in an individual when issues of survival
are raised in fact or by implication. He argued that the effect of the emotional
state is to create an interaction between the individual and the event that pre­
cipitates the emotion, which usually serves to reduce the disequilibrium and
reestablish a sense of equilibrium (Plutchik, 1 980, 1989).
From an evolution point of view, Plutchik (1980) argued that emotion
should not be treated as simply a feeling state. Rather, it is understood best
when viewed as a chain of complex and loosely connected cognitive, emotional,
and behavioral responses (i.e., emotional chain) to a stimulus event. As a major
part of his theoretical development, Plutchik (1980) proposed that the occur­
rence of certain stimuli events is followed by cognition, which in turn will be
followed by introspective feelings; the feeling state is only one step in the emo­
tional chain and will serve to motivate certain goal-directed behaviors; when
successfully conducted, such behaviors will lead to desired consequences
(Plutchik, 1 980). For example, when a man encounters a dangerous animal,
the cognition of danger will motivate the inner feeling of fear, which prompts
him to run and, consequently, protects the person from being attacked.
Plutchik (1980) argued further that there are a number ofproblem points in
the emotional chain which disrupt the smooth flow of the emotional chain.
First, the initial cognition may be in error so that the threat is misperceived or
misinterpreted. Second, the feeling generated by the cognition can be blocked,
modified, or distorted. Third, appropriate reactions to feelings may (or may
not) occur due to either environmental or internal restraints, or both. Finally,
depending on whether appropriate and effective behavior occurs, the goal or
purpose of the emotional chain may (or may not) be served. If the desired pur­
pose or goal of the behaviors is not fulfilled, the unaccomplished goal will serve
as new stimulus to motivate further actions to reduce the imbalance (Plutchik,
1980). For example, we discussed previously the man encountering the dan­
gerous animals; if he runs away but cannot find any protection, he may begin to
cry. Here, crying is an emotional expressive behavior, motivated by the felt
emotion of fear, probably with the purpose of release the inner tension.

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71

Plutchik's (1980) approach to studying emotions provides a useful way from
which CWB can be examined. Later, we discuss this framework and note that
many forms of CWB have an emotion element and are people's conscious or
unconscious efforts to adapt to the environmental stimuli. These efforts turn
out to be counterproductive only when either the organization's or the individ­
ual's well-being is (or will be) harmed. However, before this is discussed, we
modify the framework to ensure that it is suitable for our discussion and appli­
cation in the organizational setting.
One element to be added to the framework before the psychoevolutionary
perspective can be applied readily to the organizational setting is the influence
of the social context. Focusing on the biological side of emotion and trying to
explain human and animal behaviors within a general framework, Plutchik
(1980) deliberately limited his discussion regarding the influence of social en­
vironment on human behavior only. Although he did mention briefly the
mechanisms of emotional regulation in his theory, he did not go so far as to in­
corporate them into the general framework. For example, he gave a description
of how a little boy who gets angry with his mother may seek other ways (such as
kicking his dog) to release the anger instead of expressing his feelings to the
mother. Plutchik (1989) also talked about the role of social institutions in con­
trolling the expression of emotions-for example, how anger and aggression
are channeled into socially acceptable pathways through the social institutions
of sports and war.
In summary, from the psychoevolutionary theory perspective, emotions are
survival mechanisms based on evolutionary adaptations. Emotions are best de­
scribed as a complex chain of events with stabilizing feedback loops that pro­
duce some kind of behavioral homeostasis (Plutchik, 2001 ) .
The Constructivist View of Emotion
Human behaviors can become much more complex when it comes to the social
setting. That is predominantly why researchers from social psychology and so­
ciology have critiqued the biology-oriented examination of human emotions.
Thoits (1989) argued that the strict biological explanation of emotions would
lose its meaning and significance when one looks at the complex social context
within which emotions take place. This is consistent with several other per­
spectives for theorizing in emotions (e.g., Hochschild, 1 983; Kemper, 1984;
Shott, 1979; Zurcher, 1982) , one of which is the constructivist view of emotion
(Averill, 1980) is one of the examples.
From a sociological viewpoint, Averill ( 1980) argued that human emotions
are socially constructed and inherit important social meanings. He viewed
emotions as transient roles that individuals take in the drama depicted by the
society within which individuals are involved. Thus, the social norms provide
shared expectations about appropriate behaviors and exert powerful influ-

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ences on individuals' actual behaviors. From this perspective, emotions are
best described as roles, which are both socially constructed and individually
enacted. Individuals interpret actively their own emotions based on the explicit
or implicit rules and norms provided by societies. Further, individuals act
based on these interpretations, and expect others to interpret the emotions us­
ing similar rules accordingly. Thus, emotions also serve as signals of appropri­
ate actions under certain social contexts (Averill, 1 980; Zurcher, 1982) .
Averill (1980) emphasizes the passion characteristic of emotion, in contrast
to emotion as an action. In other words, emotions are not actions that people
take. Rather, people don't usually have control over their emotions, and indeed,
sometimes they are overcome by them.
In his research, Averill (1 980) also discussed the possible influence of con­
flict between personal norms (i.e., individual expectancies about one's own be­
havior) and social norms (i.e., shared expectancies about appropriate behav­
ior) in shaping individual emotional responses and experiences. He argued
that behaviors that are consistent with personal norms but not social norms
are liable to be deemed inappropriate, and that well-socialized individual
norms reflect social norms. Thus, it is reasonable to expect that individuals
will seek actively emotional cues that are appropriate in certain social contexts
in an effort to match their personal norms with social norms.
In summary, it is evident that from the social psychological perspective,
emotions are built on one or more biological systems of behaviors, and the
meaning of emotion, or its functional significance, is embedded primarily in
the sociocultural system (Parkinson, 1996; Thoits, 1989) . Thus, it is necessary
to consider the broader social context within which the emotions take place to
fully understand individuals' emotional behaviors.

APPLYING A SOCIAL PSYCHOEVOLUTIONARY
PERSPECTIVE TO THE ORGANIZATIONAL SETTING
Upon closer examination, it is evident that, despite the different emphasis of
the two approaches discussed previously, they have interesting similarities.
First, both the psychoevolutionary theory of emotion and the constructivist
view argue that emotion is not a simple feeling state. Specifically, both theories
agree that cognitive and behavioral elements in emotions. In the psycho­
evolutionary theory of emotion, this is evident from the argument of emotions
as a chain of cognition, feelings, and behaviors. From the constructivist view of
emotion, this is evident in Averill's (1980) argument that emotions are inter­
pretations and roles. This is a critical understanding. On one hand, this un­
derscores the importance of understanding emotions within the context rather
than isolated feeling states. On the other hand, it also implies that emotions

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73

are important in the understanding of cognitions and behaviors (Fisher &
Ashkanasy, 2000a; Fineman, 2000; Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) .
Second, both theories agree that emotion has a survival value, although they
may differ on the meaning of survival. It is evident that the psychoevolutionary
theory of emotion emphasizes the individual's physical and psychological ex­
periences, whereas the constructivist view of emotion emphasizes the social
facet of human emotions and describes the individual as an active role taker in
the social context. At the same time, the psychoevolutionary theory of emotion
looks at survival at its basic biological level, whereas the constructivist view of
emotion adds to survival a social meaning, namely, the survival of self or the
self identity. When examining individual behaviors in contemporary organiza­
tions, however, the second meaning of survival becomes more salient. For ex­
ample, dying from hunger may not be as significant a concern for an employee
as losing a job from which he obtains a sense of belonging and meaning. The
latter case and other concerns, such as belonging to certain social groups (e.g.,
middle-class, professionals), having certain reputations, and being loved and
well accepted, are usually the meanings of survival in the modern social set­
ting. In fact, Plutchik ( 1 980) acknowledged identity as a fundamental existen­
tial crisis for all organisms and acknowledged it as a more complex issue when
applied to human behaviors.
Therefore, it appears that two of the most diverse theories of emotions
within the literature share common ground and tend to differ primarily in fo­
cus and emphasis. Thus, we propose that by integrating the psychoevolu­
tionary theory and the constructivist view of emotion, a social psychoevo­
lutionary perspective can be applied readily to the organizational setting.
Conceptual Model
We put the psychoevolutionary theory in the psychodynamic context that the
constructivist perspective implies, and developed a model of CWB from the
emotion perspective (see Fig. 4. 1 ) . In daily organizational life, individuals are
exposed to work events or other stimuli events occurring outside the work­
place (i.e., life events) . Upon encountering the stimuli events, individuals per­
ceive information selectively in ways prescribed by situational factors and indi­
vidual characteristics; in this process some information may be lost during the
perception and interpretation process, and some other information may be
misinterpreted (Motowidlo, 1986; Weick, 1995). These perceptions influence
further the feelings of individuals, and a disequilibrium feeling may result,
which often leads to emotional tension.
The direct link between stimulus events and feelings indicates that it is also
possible for stimuli to lead directly to inner feelings (Zajonc, 1984) . It is im­
portant to note that there is still an unresolved debate as to whether cognitive
appraisal is a necessary precondition for elicitation of emotion (Lazarus,

L I U AND P E RREW E

74
Stimglus event

foI··· · . . .... .

.

�.........................•...........
Stimulus event
Work event



..........

. Life event

..... ....... ..... .•...• ... ..........

Perceived

Feeling

Effect
Behavioral
Reaction
Emotional
expression
(see Figure
2)

. Desired

I{

L----.J

. Undesired

'------'

Organizational (e.g., resource constraints), situational
(e.g., social cues, norms), and individual (e.g.,
attribution style) factors

FIG. 4.1 . An emotion-based process model of counterproductive work be­
havior.

1984), or whether there are circumstances under which affect may precede
cognition (Zajonc, 1984) . Although many argue that cognition is a necessary
precondition (Lazarus, 1 991), or an intertwining part (Solomon, 2000) , of
emotion, some have shown that emotions could be induced without the in­
volvement of cognition (Zajonc, 1980) . It has also been found that emotion can
influence cognition and behaviors (Staw & Barsade, 1993). For example, re­
search has found that emotional states may affect an individual's cognition
ability (Isen & Means, 1 983) and social orientation (Staw & Barsade, 1993;
Staw, Sutton, & Pelled, 1994) . Taking all this literature into consideration, we
depict the relationship as non-recursive to show that cognition and feelings
may influence each other in a cycling manner.
To rebuild the emotional balance result from stimuli events or cognitive ap­
plaisal, individuals actively involve themselves in behaviors (including emo­
tional expression) that are intended for certain desired effects. In certain situ­
ations, discussed later in this chapter, the behaviors can be counterproductive
in nature. The behavioral reactions to inner feelings can then lead to conse­
quences, which may (or may not) be the desired effects or goals. Depending on
whether the purpose is satisfied, another episode of emotional experiences
may (or may not) follow.
The arrows (pointing left) from "perceived effect" back to the stimulus
event, cognition, feelings, and behavior represent situations in which the de-

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75

sired effects are not fulfilled. These unfulfilled goals may serve as new stimuli
events that invoke a entire new chain of emotional reactions, or induce new
perceptions, feelings, or behavior reactions that may lead to CWB. Theo­
retically, these feedback loops in the emotional chain only end when the de­
sired goals (either the original or the adjusted ones) are achieved. To better il­
lustrate the point, an example is in order. Imagine an employee who failed to
get an expected promotion (stimulus event) . Imagine further that she inter­
preted it as unfair (cognition) and felt angry (feeling) . In a department meet­
ing, therefore, she "caused a scene" by publicly offending her supervisor (be­
havioral reaction) to try to release her emotional tension (desired effect).
Rather than regaining her emotional balance, however, she may instead be
punished by the organization (undesired effect) . The punishment then may
serve as a new stimulus event that intensifies the worker's perception of un­
fairness (new cognition) , which induces her subsequent feelings of frustration
(new feeling) and sabotage (new behavioral reaction) .
It is important to note that the entire process of the emotional chain is in­
fluenced by organizational, situational, and individual factors (d. Averill, 1980;
Parkinson, 1996; Thoits, 1989; Hochschild, 1983) . For example, organizations
often have explicit requirements or implicit expectations for employees' emo­
tions in the forms of feeling rules, defined by Hochschild (1983) as the social
guidelines for individuals as to what emotions to have in certain situations. Sit­
uational factors, such as being in a football game or a department meeting, also
provide cues to individuals' emotional expressions and behaviors, where indi­
viduals consciously get themselves "psyched up" or "calmed down" (Zurcher,
1982). Overall, the social influences both enrich and constrain individuals'
emotional experience. They enrich emotional experiences by providing the
tacit knowledge on how things should be perceived, giving cues that indicate
which emotion and behavior are socially appropriate. At the same time, they
constrain emotional expression by imposing social rules that individuals must
follow in order to survive. In addition, individual differences in such factors as
attribution style and emotional stability (Martinko & Zellars, 1998) also influ­
ence how stimuli events are interpreted and reacted to. In all, the conceptual
model posited that the emotional chains that are invoked by stimuli events and
shaped by the organizational, situational, and individual factors serve as critical
antecedent of CWB.
Emotional Adaptation
According to the psychoevolutionary theory of emotion, the adaptive function
of emotion depends on the smooth flow of the entire emotional chain. In situa­
tions where links between two constructs are distorted, the entire process
from stimulus to behavior and subsequent effect becomes problematic. Un­
fortunately, in modern organizational settings, there are many factors such as

76

L I U AN D PE RREWE

intense competition and large-scale environmental change (Cascio, 1995) that
may hinder or block the adaptation process, as is discussed in detail in later
sections.
At each of the linking point in the proposed model two possibilities coexist,
both of which may lead to CWB. The first occurs where the link is hindered,
blocked, or distorted. For example, when a feeling of anger toward a customer
cannot be expressed due to organizational policies, it is then redirected toward
organizational property or coworkers. The second is when the chain functions
smoothly but in a way that harms the organization. For example, an outburst of
extreme anger in the case just mentioned may be due to the accurate appraisal
of the situation (e.g., abuse by the customer) and be effective in helping the
person regain emotional balance (i.e., fulfill the goal of emotions) . However,
such expression of anger clearly has negative implications for organizational
outcomes (e.g., customer satisfaction and retention). Thus, even adaptive
emotions may lead to CWB.
A Taxonomy of CWB Based on Emotion
To understand better how emotional adaptation and maladaptation affect
CWB, we have developed a taxonomy of CWB. It should be noted that the emo­
tional chain might be adaptive and functional from the perspective of individ­
ual, but not necessarily be so from the social perspective of the society, which
is, in our case, the organization.
As indicated in Fig. 4.2, based on the notion of emotional adaptation, CWB
can be classified into four different categories according to its individual and
social implications. We propose that the conventionally defined CWBs, such as
abuse of others, threats, work avoidance, and sabotage (Fox et aI., 200 1 ) , are
behaviors that are adaptive from the individual's perspective but maladaptive
from the social perspective. However, there are three other forms of CWB that
are understudied. First are those CWBs that are maladaptive to both individual
and society, including self-destruction, drug use, and depression (as shown in
the bottom left quadrant in Fig. 4.2). Second are those that are maladaptive in­
dividually but seem to be adaptive socially at the surface level (see the bottom
right quadrant in Fig. 4.2) . Such behaviors include passive emotional regula­
tion behaviors such as suppression of negative emotional expressions (Gross,
1999) and surface acting when performing emotional labor (Grandey, 2000;
Hochschild, 1983) . This type of behavior is maladaptive in the sense that it
may be harmful for the physical and psychological well-being (Grandey, 2000;
Gross, 1998b; Hochschild, 1983), as well as the cognitive ability, of individuals
(Gross & Levenson, 1997; Richards & Gross, 2000) . Finally, CWBs that are
adaptive both to the individual and the immediate social groups (see upper left
quadrant in Fig. 4.2) . This includes deviant behaviors (e.g., stealing) attempt­
ing to adhere to certain organizational cultures or group norms. Viewing CWB

4.

77

C OU N T E R P R O D U C T IVE WORK B E HAV I O R

Emotional adaptation from the social
perspective
Adaptive
Unethical behaviors
(;i

.g

;;:
:a
.5
.

.;:
e
0
=
0

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0:1

-g

organizational culture

<

(Hidden form of

g.
-0

<1)

CWB)

<1)

'B
<1)

<1)
;;.

(;i

.�



(;i


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=
0

e
"'-l

Abuse of others,
threats, work
avoidance, work
sabotage, overt acts
(Mostly studied
forms of eWB)

Suppression of

@'

<1)
0.

attempt to adhere to

<1)
;;.
.
;::

Maladaptive

-0
0:1

negative emotions,

Self-destruction, drug

high level of

use, depression

emotional labor
(Understudied forms

(Understudied forms
ofeWB)

of eWB)

FIG. 4.2. A taxonomy of CWE as employee emotional adaptation behaviors.
from the emotional adaptation perspective highlights that these three forms of
CWE should be emphasized in organizational research since they could be
harmful equally to the individual and the organizational well-being.
In the preceding subsection, we discuss situations where a linking point in
the emotional chain becomes problematic, which, we propose, is how CWB is
induced. It is important to understand that although CWB can be induced
when only one of the linking points become problematic (i.e., each problem
point can lead directly to CWB) , it is through the mechanism of the entire
emotional chain that the antecedents of CWB function. Thus, we cannot un­
derstand fully the process of the influence without examining the complex
chain of emotional adaptation. In other words, viewing CWB from this per­
spective helps to better understand CWB.
Stimuli and Cognition
The organizational context has a strong influence over individual behaviors.
Events occurring daily in the workplace can serve as important antecedents of
strong emotional and behavioral reactions (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). Injus­
tice events are likely to induce CWB (Greenberg & Barling, 1999) . For exam­
ple, supervisor's emotional abuse of subordinates has been found to be associ-

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L I U AND P E RREW E

ated with pervasiveness of fear and breakdown of employees (Harlos & Pinder,
2000). Many extreme cases of workplace aggression and violence also seem to
be direct responses to workplace injustice (Cropanzano & Greenberg, 1997).
We argue that organizational injustice should be related positively to CWB
through cognition and/or feelings.
However, it is usually not the objective event itself that serves as the imme­
diate cause of CWB. In the organizational setting, people actively construct
their own realities based on the limited information readily available, and
through the socialization and collective sense-making with other organiza­
tional members (Weick, 1 979). Thus, it is important to examine individuals'
cognitive appraisal of a stimulus event beyond its objective attributes. Both in­
dividual differences (e.g., attribution style) and contextual factors (e.g., envi­
ronmental uncertainty) influence individuals' cognitions. We discuss both fac­
tors in detail next.
Attribution Style. Attribution style is a traitlike individual characteristic
that directs the individual's attention when one makes causal reasoning. Attri­
bution styles influence individuals' appraisals as to their relationship to the sit­
uation. For example, individuals who have an external attribution style tend to
attribute success or failure to the environment; in contrast, those with an in­
ternal attribution style tend to attribute success or failure to themselves.
There is evidence that attribution style influences the relationship between or­
ganizational frustration and CWB, such that, in reaction to frustration, individ­
uals who tend to make external attribution are more likely to sabotage than
their internal counterpart (Storms & Spector, 1 987) . It has also been proposed
that individuals who have an external attribution style are more likely to exhibit
aggressive and violent behaviors as a result of aversive outcomes than employ­
ees who tend to make internal attributions (Martinko & Zellars, 1998). Thus,
it is reasonable to expect that individuals' attribution style will influence their
cognitive appraisal of events.
Environmental Uncertainty. The modern work environment is character­
ized by constant changes, which has resulted in additional pressures both on
organizations and individuals (Cascio, 1995; Greenberg & B arling, 1999). On
the one hand, changes bring about a high level of uncertainty, and therefore
the need to process more information within a constrained time limit. On the
other hand, information gathering and processing become problematic due to
the limited cognitive capability of individuals (Simon, 1997) . For example, re­
search indicates that during threatening situations, individuals, groups, and
organizations tend to become more rigid and rely on less information for deci­
sion making (Staw, Sandelands, & Dutton, 198 1 ) . In addition, there are situa­
tions where management feels it is necessary to withhold information from the
employees for a certain period of time, which makes it more difficult for em-