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'Death By Paper Cuts:' How Insecure Workers Hurt Companies

(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
The Arizona Commerce Authority reported 87,132 projected new jobs during FY 2013 - FY 2017.

Studies have shown when some employees don’t feel valued, they’re less likely to go the extra mile at work. Now, new research from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University finds workers who feel insecure are actually more likely to do bad things.

Those bad things can range from stealing office supplies to sabotaging other people’s projects. ASU Assistant Professor Ned Wellman and his partner in China surveyed people across different industries at different points in time. They found when people are afraid of losing their jobs, having their hours cut or assigned less desirable duties, they’re more likely to justify their behavior. 

“I do think this is sort of death by paper cuts, if you will,” he explained. “One person falsifying one taxi receipt not a big deal, but over time if enough people do that then it does make a significant impact on the bottom line.”

Wellman says "superstar" employees and those in positions of high demand are most likely to act out if they feel insecure. When surveying workers about deviant behavior, they used a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 representing "never" and 5 for "very frequent." Wellman said the range of responses was around 2.

To curb bad behavior, he says organizations should encourage and train managers to develop close, supportive relationships with employees. 

“If you’re job insecure but feel like your supervisor respects you, cares about you, takes time out of his or her day to ask you how things are going, then that actually makes this tendency go away,” he said.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.