Secret Reasons: Unmasking Sneaky Work Sabotage and Stopping It

Jul 25, 2023

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A Written Study by Lloyd C. Harris and Emmanuel Ogbonna

The research paper “Motives for Service Sabotage: An Empirical Study of Front-Line Workers” by Lloyd C. Harris and Emmanuel Ogbonna explores the motives behind service sabotage exhibited by front-line employees. The authors argue that existing conceptualizations of sabotage behaviors have overlooked the agency of front-line workers in service organizations.

Through interviews and surveys with front-line workers, the study identifies five motives for deliberate employee sabotage: financial, customer-driven, stress-related, group reasons, and employee-firm-oriented motives. The findings indicate that service sabotage encompasses a range of behaviors, from benign to malicious, and that it is not simply an irrational response to exploitation but often driven by personal or professional instrumental reasons.

The paper emphasizes the need for a more comprehensive conceptualization of employee agency, considering rationales for sabotage and resistance-related activities. It cautions against over- simplifying employee dynamics and highlights the importance of understanding employees’ complex subjectivity in shaping their behaviors.

The study also sheds light on the prevalence of service sabotage and its routine nature within certainwork environments. While sabotage and resistance activities have been acknowledged in manufacturing sectors, they have been relatively overlooked in the services sector. The authors arguefor the exploration of organizational phenomena in service contexts to develop a more inclusive understanding of their dynamics.

The research further contributes to the broader field of employment studies by highlighting the needto incorporate customer-related factors into theories of employment relationships. The authors suggest that comprehensive theories should consider the relationships between organizations, employees, and customers, particularly in the service economies.

However, the paper acknowledges several limitations, including the focus on motives rather than the specific forms of sabotage, the need for further exploration of the drivers of service sabotage, and theimportance of considering contextual factors in future research.

In conclusion, this study advances our understanding of service sabotage by examining the motives of front-line workers. It calls for a more nuanced conceptualization of employee agency and emphasizes the need for research to explore the links between motives and forms of sabotage, replicate findings across various service contexts, and investigate strategies to manage and reduce harmful acts of service sabotage.

If you want to read the full paper, check this link:

Blog Written by:Yvette Durazo

Yvette is an international leader and expert in the field of alternative dispute resolution/conflict resolution with expertise in the Human Resources, family businesses, corporate and non-profit organizational disputes areas. Yvette is an Adjunct Professor for the University of California, Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Extension for the Human Resource Management Certification Program. There she teaches online and in-person courses in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Human Resource Management Courses, Communication & Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Ethics, Neutrality, Conciliation, and Mediation. She is also a former Adjunct Professor for the National University and the School General Council of the Judiciary in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico.