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Dignity, counterproductive work behavior, and employee engagement

Academy of Management Proceedings. November 30, 2017

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While there has been a growing body of research on workplace dignity, the majority of studies tend to focus on how dignity is experienced by organizational members and have paid considerably less attention to consequences for organizations. In this study, we test the effect of workplace dignity on employee behaviors that affect organizational performance. Using Bolton’s (2007) multidimensional theory of dignity to analyze Hodson’s (2004) Workplace Ethnography Project dataset, we examine the influence of workplace dignity on counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs) and employee engagement. Generally, we find workplace dignity predicted a decrease in CWBs and an increase in employee engagement. However, an important exception is autonomy-an essential element of workplace dignity-predicted an increase in CWBs. Following deeper exploration of this counterintuitive finding, we ultimately argue that dignity is not only good for employees, but also is advantageous to building productive workplaces.