Workplace stress has become an increasingly serious issue due to its cost to organisational productivity and employee health and wellbeing. Over the years, the association between stress and counterproductive workplace behaviour (CWB) has become an increasingly popular topic of study among organizational researchers. CWB refers to behaviour by employees that harms an organization or its members (Spector & Fox, 2002). Spector and colleagues (e.g., Chen & Spector, 1992; Penney & Spector, 2005) have portrayed CWB as an emotion-based response to stressful organisational conditions.
This connotation is supported by several theoretical frameworks, including Affective Event Theory (AET; Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) and Job stress/Emotion/CWB model (Spector & Fox, 2002). AET posits that individuals respond to workplace events with a ‘feeling mode’, and these emotional responses, in turn, manifest affective-based work behaviours. To test this theory, Wegge, Dick, Fisher, West, and Dawson (2006) conducted a survey-based study in the UK call centre industry to examine whether emotion does indeed predict affective-based behaviours. The results suggested that emotional responses to work characteristics are associated with affective commitment (i.e., desire and behaviour decision to maintain membership with the organisation; Meyer, Allen, & Gellatly, 1990) and physical health complaints (e.g. ‘I have had difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep’). This study provides an empirical evidence to support the association between emotions and behaviours.
Job stress/Emotion/CWB model (Spector & Fox, 2002), on the other hand, posits that individuals respond to workplace events with a ‘thinking mode’, appraising the meaning with a rational mindset. In this view, the workplace events are seen as threats to well-being are job stressors that induce negative emotional reactions, such as anger or anxiety. Common examples of job stressors are role conflict and ambiguity, interpersonal conflicts, and situational constraints. These workplace stressful events thereby manifest CWB - a strain response. Supporting this account, Fox, Spector, and Miles (2001) conducted a wide-range survey, using University and U.S. job incumbents, and found that CWB is indeed a behavioural strain response and that negative emotion mediates this stressor-strain relationship.
In related work, Rodell and Judge (2009) showed that hindrance stressor (i.e., red tape, role conflicts, and situational constraints; Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000) had a positive indirect effect on CWB through anxiety and anger. That is, individuals tend to respond to hindrance stressors with negative emotional actions, and these negative emotions, in turn, lead to an increase in CWB to manage the negative experiences (Spector & Fox, 2002). In sum, these theoretical frameworks and researches offer an emotion-based explanation for the relationship between hindrance stressors, negative emotions, and CWB. ...