Sabotage is a term about work. The reference started in the mid-1800’s when French factory workers threw their wooden clogs (sabots) into machines to stop production. The term refers to any activities that intentionally reduce productivity. Generally, sabotage refers to workers who resort to production interference to express discontent about current management practices. Sabotage includes intentional behaviors directed toward interfering with an individual’s productivity.
Sabotage is a form of incivility. Like incivility, sabotage has a wide continuum of activities from working slowly to destruction of property. Like incivility, sabotage is vague and difficult to identify such as, omission of information or treating a customer poorly. Often other causes are attributed to customer dissatisfaction, lost information and equipment failure. And like incivility, managers are not trained to recognize anti- social behavior so they look for other causes.
A recent University of British Columbia study showed a culture of moral disengagement allowed students to sabotage others. The university worked with three other universities to study sabotage at work and in college. One survey asked business students how close they were and how envious they were of other students; and eight months later, asked if they had sabotaged any students. The results revealed a positive correlation between envy and sabotage. A more significant factor was the relationships among the group members. People who felt envy and had little connection with the group were more likely to sabotage. The likelihood of sabotage occurring is positively related to groups who allow sabotage. The term moral disengagement was coined by one of the authors, Karl Aquino; defined as a way of thinking that allows people to justify harming others. We see this same behavior with other forms of bullying.
Managers need to accept responsibility for developing a positive, civil work group. The study showed that work groups who felt connected did not permit sabotage. This supports team building initiatives. The study will appear in the next issue of Academy of Management Journal titled “A Social Context Model of Envy and Social Undermining.”
Other studies affirm that effective supervision, increased communication and proper motivation will minimize the occurrence of workplace sabotage.
Effective supervision includes listening to employees who may feel sabotaged and investigating the possibility, rather than looking for other causes or being dismissive. It’s unlikely that an employee will directly report suspected sabotage, because it is often elusive. It’s difficult to describe suspected sabotage unless it is as overt as throwing clogs into a machine. Active listening is required when an employee voices frustration.
Whether the possible sabotage is directed at an individual’s or the organization’s productivity, managers should not reject the thought of sabotage. Supervisors condone incivility by passively allowing people to get away with these behaviors.
Supervisors need to make anecdotal accounts of the situation that include events preceding, during and following the suspected sabotage. A history of these accounts should be kept to identify trends and help place the suspected sabotage within the context of other personnel actions and organizational events. Damages need to be assessed as well as who may benefit as a result. Use exit interviews and grievances as supportive data. Creating this information base can be used to identify problem areas, reduce vulnerability and apprehend the saboteur.
Unpaid Internship or Off-the-clock work?
Two unpaid interns working on the Black Swan production are suing for unpaid wages and recordkeeping violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law. This case seeks to represent more than 100 unpaid interns and assistants who worked for Fox Searchlight films in New York.
The Department of Labor (DOL) determines whether an intern is an employee based on six factors:
1. The training is similar to a vocational school or educational instruction
2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees
3. Trainees do not displace employees and work under close observation
4. The employer derives no immediate advantage from the trainee
5. Trainees are not entitled to a paid position after the training
6. The trainees understand there is no entitlement of wages
The quick test is if an employer would need to hire an employee in lieu of an intern, the internship should be paid.
6th Circuit Counts Volunteers
An individual received a right to sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as a result of a sexual harassment claim against a Volunteer Fire Department. The lower court dismissed the case since the department had less than 15 employees which is required to qualify as an employer under Title VII. The appellate court reversed the decision and counted volunteers, stating employer-employee relationships are complex; weighing factors including control, scheduling and firing.
Click here to download this newsletter.