Engaging and Misbehaving: How Dignity Affects Employee Work Behaviors

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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, paying considerably less attention to consequences for organizations. In this study, we explore the influence of workplace dignity on employee work behaviors that affect organizational performance. Framing our inquiry with Sharon Bolton’s yetuntested multidimensional theory of dignity, we analyze Randy Hodson’s content-coded ethnographic data to reveal that increases in workplace dignity tend to predict increases in employee engagement, yet have mixed effects on counterproductive workplace behaviors. Following a post-hoc ethnographic reimmersion, we identify the critical role of safe and secure working conditions in enabling and constraining employees’ ability to redress or resist workplace indignities with counterproductive workplace behaviors.