Why some workers get away with bad behavior

We’ve all seen it: employees behaving badly — and getting away with it.

Why does this happen?

Well, Baylor University researchers think they know: You can get away with breaking the rules as long as you’re productive. In other words, a valuable worker can afford to mess up occasionally, but those whose performance might lag cannot.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Matthew J. Quade, a Baylor professor of business, wrote that productive workers who ignore rules or act unethically present a dilemma to employers because of their “contrasting worth.”

“The employees’ unethical behaviors can be harmful, but their high job performance is also quite important to the organization’s success,” he explained in the study, which was published in Personnel Psychology. “In this vein, high job performance may offset unethical behavior enough to where the employee is less likely to be ostracized.”

No one should get the wrong idea here, however.

Engage in unethical behavior and you’re likely to pay a big price for it down the road.

Employers, in the meantime, should make sure to establish that they have no tolerance for unethical behavior from employees, no matter how good they are at their jobs.

Employers also should make clear that their workers can come to them with complaints about unethical behavior from colleagues.

About the Author

Lon Matejczyk

Lon is the former publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group.He has served in leadership roles at various newspapers in Iowa, Florida and Wisconsin. Lon received his Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire and attended the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Earlier in his career, Lon spent several years as a sea captain and held a 100-ton Coast Guard license. Lon is a former rugby player, referee and administrator and now coaches under 13 year old kids. Lon has served on the boards of numerous community and business organizations including Colorado Springs Leadership Institute, Peak Venture Group, CS Quality of Life Indicators Business Index Committee, Junior Achievement and is a member of The Colorado Thirty Group.  Lon was given the “Making the Pikes Peak region a better place to live work and play” award by the CS Chamber of Commerce, was the VFW Post 1’s business citizen of the year.

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