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J Soc Psychol. 2012 Sep-Oct;152(5):586-612.

Every cloud has a silver lining: positive effects of deviant coworkers.

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  • 1Wichita State University, W Frank Barton School of Business, Department of Management, 126 N Brookside, Wichita, KS 67208, USA.


Drawing on the labeling perspective of deviance, we investigate employee reactions to coworkers perceived as deviants. We look at two positive effects for employees in the presence of a deviant coworker. First, in comparison to a deviant individual, other employees can draw more positive conclusions about themselves; and second, a deviant can be informative about organizational norms, thereby improving employee role clarity. We also examine individual and situational moderators. For the purpose of the study, we developed a measure of the presence of a deviant. The hypothesized relationships were tested in two large samples using multiple regression analyses. The results revealed that in the presence of a deviant coworker, employees reported enhanced self-evaluation. The presence of a deviant coworker was associated with better role clarity only for employees with more interdependent jobs. We also discuss practical implications of the findings and future research directions.

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