A growing prevalence of positive deviance behavior in the workplace and the potential benefits associated with such behavior draw increasing attentions of scholars over years. According to Coccia (1998), organization norms are a series of “expected behaviors, principles, languages and postulations that allow the workplace to perform at a suitable pace”. Within organization behavior, scholars define positive deviance behavior as “intentional behaviors that depart from the norms of a referent group in honorable ways”(Spreitzer and Sonenshein, 2003). Sometimes, accepting thoroughly organizational norms might discourage positive deviance behaviors that would contribute to the organization. Appelbaum and Laconi (2007) find that these positive behaviors would be generated by psychological empowerment. In order to evaluate the influence on organization of positive deviant behaviors, this paper explores the reasons why people tend to bend the norms, and the consequences brought about by these behaviors. In addition, some suggestions to courage positive deviant behavior in the organization are discussed. Good introduction.
It is essential to figure out what behaviors can be considered as positive deviant ones in the workplace. Spreitzer and Sonenshein (2004) contend that Four pro-social types of behaviors, including whistle-blowing, organizational citizenship behaviors, innovation and corporate social responsibility, could be classified as positive deviant behaviors. The prerequisite is that these behaviors intentionally and honorably bend organization norms.
Whistle-blowing sometimes acts as positive deviant behavior if it has an ethical and honorable intention. For instance, an employee voluntarily tells a third-party about illegal information from the company he/she works in. Organizational citizenship behaviors are another type of positive deviant behaviors. If a person willingly does something outside his/her duty, aiming at improving the efficiency of that organization, his/her behavior could be considered as positive ones. In addition, innovation, creative and initiative ideas that are obviously held by the minority, in some cases are constructive deviance for organizations. Last but not the least, an increasing number of companies take corporate social responsibility (CSR) to benefit the society at large. CSR activity is not inside the commercial goals of company. However, it positively departs from the organization norms, so CSR could also be treated as positive deviant behavior (Spreitzer and Sonenshein, 2004).
Knowing about the main types of positive deviant behaviors, many experts investigate who are likely to carry out these behaviors. Peterson (2002) proposes that the ethical climate of an organization and unequal treatment are also elements to facilitate workplace deviance. Baucus and Near (1991) report that young employees who work part-time or who are new to their job, and get relative low payment are the most possible rebels at work. What’s more, Galperin (2002) illustrates that employees with higher status and that leaders dominate plenty of related groups tend to participate in constructive deviance. These two types of people may have more opportunities to experience creative perspectives from outside, which would enhance their competence of proactively solving problems and finally help to generate innovative viewpoints and behaviors in their groups.
It is noteworthy that these brave rebels’ performances would sometimes let them suffer the pressure from their workplace. Thus, numerous studies analyze the incentives of positively deviant behaviors. Spreitzer and Sonenshein (2003) highlight five key psychological conditions that play roles in “facilitating the likelihood of positively deviant behavior”. These conditions are “sense of meaning, focus on the other, self-determination, personal efficacy, and