Purpose – This study proposes a nuanced perspective for conceptualizing interpersonal counterproductive work behaviors (ICWBs) by distinguishing them into behaviors that hinder other workers’ task performance (task-focused ICWBs), and those that are personal in nature (person-focused ICWBs). A relational stress perspective is adopted to examine work-based dependence relational stressor and negative-affect relational stressor as predictors of each category of behavior, with trait competitiveness as a moderator.

Design/methodology/approach – Deductive and inductive approaches were used to generate items measuring each type of ICWBs, and the two-factor ICWB structure was validated using data from 136 respondents. Data from a different sample of 125 employees from two organizations were used to test the hypothesized model.

Findings – Work-dependence relational stressor predicted task-focused ICWBs, while negative affect relational stressor predicted both forms of ICWBs. Trait competitiveness moderated these relationships in different ways.

Implications – This study addresses researchers’ call for fine-grained research that examines specific forms of CWBs and their underlying causes. It demonstrates that ICWBs can go beyond the traditional person-focused behaviors that target other workers’ well-being, to encompass task-focused behaviors that directly impact their performance. By revealing that different relationships at work predict such behaviors, this study informs organizations on how to manage and deter such behaviors among employees.

Originality/value – This is the first study to distinguish ICWBs into those that are task-focused and person-focused, to provide a validated measure of these two types of behaviors, and to PERSON- AND TASK-FOCUSED ICWBS 3 propose and test a model where workplace relationships differently predict such behaviors, moderated by individual’s competitiveness.

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Copyright © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. Article first published online: 20 JAN 2012. DOI: 10.1007/s10869-012-9256-7

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Full citation:

Ho, Violet T. "Interpersonal Counterproductive Work Behaviors: Distinguishing Between Person-Focused Versus Task-Focused Behaviors and Their Antecedents." Journal of Business and Psychology 27, no. 4 (December 2012): 467-82. doi:10.1007/s10869-012-9256-7.