Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Constructive nonconformism cultivation

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Constructive nonconformism cultivation:
How can constructive nonconformism be cultivated?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Imagine that you are in the middle of an important meeting in your workplace and each of you and your co-workers are bouncing ideas off one another to figure out how to tackle a complex issue. Each of you are reiterating what you have learned through your years of experience, but then one of your co-workers openly exclaims something that was added was incorrect and instead brings up a novel solution. You have just watched someone partake in "constructive nonconformism".

Constructive nonconformism has become more and more sought after in modern day society, particularly in the working world, because it can lead to more creative and innovative solutions to difficult problems and improve organisational performance (Mertens, Recker, Kummer, Kohlborn & Viaene, 2016). However, constructive nonconformism can also be shunned and ridiculed depending on the context. To allow for constructive, rather than destructive nonconformism, a workplace must be willing to allow the deviance to take place, but when placed into a rigid and heavily rule enforced work environment, there may be no chance to reach a novel end to the problem.

The purpose of this chapter is to create an underlying understanding of what constructive nonconformism is, accompanied by examples, and to take a look at how constructive nonconformism can be cultivated with motivational theories and adherence to research. Examples of constructive conformism and usage in real-world scenarios are be outlined. The conclusion summarises the chapter, touches on important issues and where the research can go from here.

Focus questions

  • What is constructive nonconformism?
  • What motivational theories explain cultivation of constructive nonconformism?
  • How can constructive nonconformism be cultivated?

What is constructive nonconformism[edit | edit source]

Constructive nonconformism (also known as constructive nonconformity or constructive deviance) is a relatively modern phenomenon that largely has research and applications that are based around workplaces and the ability to complete projects. Constructive nonconformism can be defined as actions which deviate from what would be the social norm of a referent group in honourable ways (Mertens, Recker, Kohlborn & Kummer, 2016). The actions can also lead to new understandings and a fresh perspective, most usually in workplace teams which are trying to come at a project from a new angle. It must be emphasised that those who partake in constructive nonconformism usually do so, not because they are disloyal but because they are passionate enough to go against workplace practices that they see as stagnant or ineffective (Dahling & Gutworth, 2017), and doing so is seen as a risk for the individual (Gary, 2013).

Case study

Since reading up on constructive nonconformism, Jeremy has started speaking out against coworkers (respectfully) when he felt differently to what they were saying during his project meeting, instead of how he used to attend meetings, where he would stay quiet and agree with what he was expected to. This has lead Jeremy to opening up new avenues that were otherwise unknown for the team and has lead to him feeling more confident and motivated personally.

The example of Jeremy shows a very typical way that someone can partake in constructive nonconformism that can then lead to more interpersonal growth. Although this can be very rewarding and beneficial to a workplace, the difficulty of cultivating constructive nonconformism comes with contextual differences, as norms are context specific, and what may be constructive to one environment may very well end up being destructive in another.

Examples of constructive nonconformism[edit | edit source]

Constructive nonconformism is comprised of a large blanket of actions that are against social norms, but can be used in innovative fashions to raise productivity or merely cut down on problems. The main prototypical examples of constructive deviance are:

  • Whistle-blowing: Exposing other workers or people for doing things that are deemed unethical for the workplace which, although is against social norms, can be beneficial to an organisation.
  • Tempered radicalism: The act of surviving in a workplace while keeping a prominent sense of self and working proactively for change positively.
  • Exercising voice: Voicing personal and perhaps divergent opinions. Figure 1 shows an example of this.
  • Functional or creative disobedience: Essentially means being able to disobey morally ambiguous orders.
  • Organisational dissent: Being able to change, or at least stand up to the organisational status quo when it feels necessary (Warren, 2003).

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Quiz Time!

Choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

Which of these would be classified as constructive nonconformism?

Speaking out against bad practices at work
Working hard
Telling your boss what they want to hear
Working less during work hours
Attempting innovative work ideas

Motivational theories for the cultivation of constructive nonconformism[edit | edit source]

There are a multitude of motivational theories that have been tested over the years to understand why people are pushed to complete tasks or engage in things. The four that were found to have the most applicability and relatability to the cultivation of constructive nonconformism were Herzberg's two-factor theory that focuses on workplace motivators, mastery goals which focus on the motivation to get good at a task, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation which has to do with why someone is motivated to do something, and lastly, prosocial motivation was found to be applicable which bases the theory around people being motivated to help others.

Herzberg's two-factor theory[edit | edit source]

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What is Herzberg's two-factor theory[edit | edit source]

Herzberg's two-factor theory is one that has gained much traction in the workplace world of understanding what motivates individuals and keeps them doing their job at a serviceable level. The way that the theory works is that there are two factors that play on workers motivation to work well and efficiently, which are motivating factors (things that increase employee job satisfaction such as achievement, recognition, growth, etc.) and hygiene factors (things that decrease employee job satisfaction such as salary issues, overbearing supervision, company policies, etc.). These two needs can be further broken down into survival needs (hygiene) and growth needs (motivating) (Lundberg, Gudmundson & Andersson, 2009). Essentially the theory claims that when hygiene factors are prevalent, employees will work less and when they are dealt with, and the motivating factors are at play, employees will work more efficiently.

How Herzberg's two-factor theory can explain constructive nonconformism[edit | edit source]

There has been much research that has been done using this particular theory as a way to quantify what workplaces excel at promoting and in turn cultivating constructive nonconformity by understanding how they are able to impact the workers' ability or want to express their ideas, even if they are against the status quo of the particular workplace's context. An employee being able to exercise their voice, even in situations that may be deemed socially unacceptable, is important and should not only be allowed to take place, it should be encouraged within reason. It can be hard to allow workers to speak on issues or ideas that are nonconforming to the current norms of the establishment, but constructive nonconformism relies heavily on that. Where Herzberg's theory intertwines with constructive nonconformism is the fact that specific hygiene factors that were outlined in the original theory (for example, company policies and supervision) act as barriers towards the cultivation of constructive nonconformism as well, and not only that, successful constructive nonconformism leads to certain motivators of the theory, such as achievement and advancement. This means that the underlying theory of Herzberg's two-factor theory align successfully with the arguments for constructive nonconformism, specifically in the workplace.

Research has also shown that allowing and encouraging employee voice within a working context leads to higher self-reported satisfaction and, using the two-factor theory, argues that employee voice acts as a motivational factor which can lead to further job satisfaction (Alfayad & Arif, 2017). All of this stands as an argument for the usage of the two-factor theory to understand and lead to more reliable cultivation of constructive nonconformism in modern workplaces.

Image of meeting
Figure 1. A meeting where an individual is exercising their voice

Mastery goals[edit | edit source]

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What are mastery goals?[edit | edit source]

Mastery goals, or mastery goal motivation, is how an individual is motivated to complete a goal. There are two different ways that people can be motivated to achieve a goal: performance and mastery motivation. Performance emphasises the focus on being able to demonstrate the skill that is being learned. An example would be a student that is learning a subject in an attempt to get a passing grade on a final exam. Mastery goals are instead about focusing on gaining an increased competence at something, rather than just being motivated to learn the skill to show that it has been learned. An example of mastery goal motivation would be a music student who constantly challenges themselves to become an expert at their particular instrument, rather than just learning the bare minimum and calling it quits, or perhaps an athlete who continues to push themselves with harder and harder training regimens. Research shows that those who use mastery-oriented practices rather than performance-oriented practices strongly predict more motivation, particularly in students (Schiefele & Schaffner, 2015). Research has also shown that those driven by mastery goals rather than performance goals are more likely to stay motivated on a task after a failure (Stout & Dasgupta, 2013).

How mastery goals explain constructive nonconformism cultivation[edit | edit source]

Through the use of mastery goals theory of motivation, there have been studies that show those who are higher on master-approach motivation tend to invest more time and energy towards the social environment of their work by establishing instrumental exchange relationships within it (Poortvliet, Anseel & Theuwis, 2015). This can be used to argue that mastery-approach motivation is related to constructive nonconformism as one of the main underpinnings of constructive nonconformism is feeling comfortable with being able to voice a divergent opinion that may counter what another worker is saying. If a worker had no interpersonal exchange relationship in the social realm of the workplace, these divergent opinions would be much harder to voice, and in turn, harder to get any traction for them.

The theories behind mastery goals can also be elaborated on to say that a mastery-avoidant worker will actively avoid the social structure of the workplace, which can in turn be argued that that would be detrimental to the cultivation of constructive nonconformism because of their personal motivation[long sentence; rewrite]. A lot of this argument comes down to those who are mastery-avoidant, unlike the mastery-approach workers, show very little emotional attachment in the social aspect of the workplace, which leads to psychological detachment and fatigue, which is clearly detrimental to constructive nonconformism[Rewrite to improve clarity]. More research has shown that those who are motivated by performance goals are more likely to be deviant within a workplace and those motivated by mastery goals are more likely to take part in organizational citizenship behaviour, which furthers the point of mastery motivated individuals being more involved the workplace (Luow, Dunlop, Yeo & Griffin, 2016).

Essentially what is being outlined is that those who are motivated by mastery goals, which means actively learning in an attempt to become competent and take satisfaction from gaining, rather than motivated by performance goals, which means learning purely in an attempt to show that you have learned something as if for a test, will find themselves cultivating constructive nonconformism more so because of how they act socially within a workplace environment[Rewrite to improve clarity].

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

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Intrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. People partaking in intrinsic motivation through playing soccer

Intrinsic motivation has been defined as the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable[say what?] consequence (Ryan & Deci, 2000). What this means is that intrinsic motivation is the want to take part in something, such as a task or hobby purely for the feeling that you get from doing it, rather than the physical reward that may come from it. An example of this would be a teenager playing in their weekend football team just because they enjoy playing the game (shown in Figure 2), rather than doing it because they are trying to win an award from it.

Extrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

Extrinsic motivation is mostly defined as doing an activity not for the satisfaction of doing the activity, but rather for the physical gain or instrumental goal (Reiss, 2012). What this means is that extrinsic motivation essentially acts as the antithesis to intrinsic motivation, because the act that you are partaking in is solely motivated by an end result, rather than the enjoyment of what has lead you there. An example of extrinsic motivation would be a worker taking a higher-paid position at a company even though the worker knows that they are going to hate the work. In that scenario, the end award is more motivating than a fulfilling and enjoyable job.

How these motivation styles cultivate constructive nonconformism[edit | edit source]

Research on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, specifically in the workplace, shows striking parallels to constructive nonconformism cultivation. Those motivated more by intrinsic feelings, such as those who attribute that feeling to a sense of autonomy rather than being over-managed, tend to fall in line more so with constructive nonconformism as they have been found to be more creative workers, and in some studies even more productive (Hon, 2011). It has even been suggested that intrinsic motivation is a primary motivational mechanism of employee creativity (Liu, Jiang, Shalley, Keem & Zhou, 2016). This has large implications for the question of how constructive nonconformism can be cultivated in a modern day workplace. It shows that to foster a working environment that is high on autonomy and creativity, and in turn constructive nonconformism, the managers and those in charge of the workers should seek to adopt a style of control that, although maintains a semblance of order and structure, is much lower on controlling, coercing and micromanaging the workers but still is empowering for the workers (Mertens & Recker, 2020)[Rewrite to improve clarity]. This may be a problem in the context of some workplaces because, when it comes working styles, people are very individualistic. Where some thrive on autonomy and are able to flourish in those settings, many prefer the more rigid and instruction-based workload. What this means is that careful and contextual consideration must be taken when attempting to shape your work style around cultivating constructive nonconformism.

Although there has been plenty of research done about the importance of intrinsic motivation when thinking about constructive nonconformism, extrinsic motivation has also been researched decently[say what?] in relation to the subject. As a lot of constructive nonconformism is built on the idea of speaking out and sharing creatively salient and novel new ideas, there has been research to show what can motivate partaking in that action. For example, Hung, Durcikova, Lai & Lin (2011) showed that extrinsic monetary rewards, which have been shown to be the main driver in the working world, on their own negatively predict creative knowledge sharing. Although that isn't the only aspect of constructive nonconformism, it is certainly one of the most important parts of the foundation of the theory. An argument can be made that those who desire their extrinsic motivator (money) more will attempt to think of novel innovative ideas to allow for a more efficient completion to receive the reward quicker, which can be shown slightly in a study that shows a promise of tangible reward (extrinsic) can lead to supposed increase of creativity in workers (Yoon, Sung, Choi, Lee & Kim, 2015). However, as of right now, more conclusive research must be done. This point stands to further illustrate the importance of individual workers who are intrinsically motivated for the prominence of constrictive nonconformism.

Prosocial motivation[edit | edit source]

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What is prosocial motivation[edit | edit source]

Prosocial motivation is a phenomenon in the studies of motivational psychology which means that your motivation is based around the desire to protect and promote the well-being of others (Grant & Berg, 2011). This essentially means that those who are rated highly on prosocial motivation have their motivation based upon the want or compulsion to do something that helps others. Although this may sound fine, there are particular downfalls with prosocial motivation, specifically in the working sector, such as those people who work commercially and rate highly on prosocial motivation can't find a balance between helping others and being financially stable within their workplace which causing overwhelming stress on them (Kibler et al., 2019).

How prosocial motivation relates to constructive nonconformism[edit | edit source]

When it comes to constructive nonconformism, in research articles prosocial motivation has been argued as an antecedent for constructive nonconformism in workplace environments. Through the use of these novel ideas and behaviours (the constructive nonconformism), workers in the environment are motivated by the positive effect they would have upon the workplace, and when they are used effectively in the working environment, these nonconforming behaviours then go on to have a positive effect on other beneficiaries. This is all done, even if it may be incongruent with what the manager has asked of the worker (Shukla & Kark, 2020). It should be reinforced however that, although the prosocial motivation can lead to workplace non-conformance (be it constructive or destructive), it won't be guaranteed to be organizationally prosocial or viable. As an example of the last point, outcomes of constructive nonconformism may be a novel and innovative look at a pre-existing issue with a positive prosocial outcome of the issue being tackled more effectively, whereas negative outcomes of the same scenario can be wastage of workplace resources which can lead to failure of the project which may in turn lead to being reprimanded by whoever may be in charge in the workplace.

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Quiz Time!

Choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

Which one of these is an example of intrinsic motivation?

Studying to get a good mark
Playing a sport for an award
Practicing karate
Cooking because you're hungry
Being motivated to help others

Real world applications[edit | edit source]

The main place where understanding cultivation of constructive nonconformism will be important is the workplace, because of how important the idea of being innovative and creative has become in this more flexible and performance oriented working world (Vadera, Pratt & Mishra, 2013). The applications can be used personally by the workers who want to work more creatively in an attempt to be more efficient, but the ones who should actually be taking this theory into account are the higher ups of the workplace. For the acts of constructive nonconformism to take place, there more often than not needs to be some sort of workplace deviance taking place and the higher ups need to know when to allow these violation of the workplace norms and when to stop them, because as there is constructive nonconformism, there is also chance for destructive nonconformism, which has been shown to have the chance of both economic and social costs to the workplace (Galperin & Burke, 2006).

On a slightly smaller and more relatable scale, constructive nonconformism is applicable in a more individualistic scenario. In social scenarios the usage of constructive nonconformism can play a large role in how individuals deal with day to day problems or occurrences. An example of this may be when you are in a social situation around someone who is exclaiming things that you may feel is uncomfortable or questionable, exercising your voice and speaking out against this situation is an example of making use of constructive nonconformism, depending on the context will decide how nonconforming it is. Also in relation to constructive nonconformism in day to day life, tempered radicalism is imperative to maintaining good mental health because of how closely its definition is tied in with keeping inline with your ideal self, which relates constructive nonconformism with many principles and theories of social psychology.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Overall, it is clear that within modern day to day life, especially in the context of the working world, constructive nonconformism, or deviating from social norms over time in an attempt to make a productive or innovative change (Pepinsky, 1960), or to express dissent from workplace practices (Lawrence & Robinson, 2007), has become exceedingly more important. It is becoming more acceptable for co-workers to speak out and whistle blow against problems they see in the workplace because of how it's known to lead to more productivity, which in this modern day seems to be what workplaces are looking for more than anything. Many different theories interact with constructive nonconformism, with Herzberg's theory explaining what hygiene factors hamper it and what motivating factors push for it. Mastery goals theories have shown that those who are more mastery-approach oriented are more likely to partake in constructive nonconformism. Intrinsically motivated are more likely to partake in constructive nonconformism whereas those extrinsically motivated are less likely to and lastly prosocial motivation was shown to be an antecedent for constructive nonconformism.

Although there are proven upsides to using constructive nonconformism, not only in workplaces, but also in everyday life, there still remains the need to be careful with where it is implemented. Each situation and particularly each workplace exists as an individual contextual ecosystem, made up of it's own spoken and unspoken guidelines. When implementing constructive nonconformism, whether you are going to go against those norms and rules needs to be taken into consideration. This is because for constructive nonconformism to be integrated successfully, it must be done in a fostering and understanding environment. An example of the downsides of constructive nonconformism may be when used in a customer service job, although the usage of constructive nonconformism for a customer's benefit may positively affect the customer and the organization because it leads to more customer loyalty, it can negatively affect the employee as it can lead to guilt by doing these things for the customer that are against work norms (Gong, Wang & Lee, 2020).

Research has shown that cultivation of constructive nonconformism really comes down to not only the personal motivation that an individual has, but also the context that they are put in, mostly in relation to workplaces and managerial figures. For example, a supervisor or boss that takes on a coaching leadership (a style of leadership characterized by cooperation and partnership) are much more likely to foster workers higher in constructive nonconformism (Cui, Wang & Nanyangwe, 2020). Essentially there are many factors that lead to the cultivation of constructive nonconformism, ranging from a workplace being less overbearing and allowing for more employee voice and creativity to workers just being more intrinsically motivated.

Lastly, there really just needs to be more research done on this theory,[grammar?] although this theory dates back many decades, it essentially focuses all on the workplace context, with very little on day to day life and other avenues. There is also one other glaring issue with the theory, and that is there lack of unification in the theory currently, where one article will refer to constructive nonconformism as 'constructive deviance', another will have it named 'productive nonconformity' and so on. For this to become a more reputable and understandable theory, work must be done that leads to more concrete and universally terminology for the theory.

What to take away from all of this

  • There are many theories that can stand to explain constructive nonconformism
  • Constructive nonconformism is determined not only by individuals, but also by context
  • More research and unification of this theory must be done

See also[edit | edit source]

Workplace deviance (Wikipedia)

Workplace motivation (Book chapter, 2013)

Workplace mental health (Book chapter, 2020)

Workplace motivation and autonomy (Book chapter, 2015)

Intrinsic motivation (Book chapter, 2013)

Extrinsic motivation (Book chapter, 2013)

References[edit | edit source]

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Cui, Z., Wang, H., & Nanyangwe, C. (2020). How Does Coaching Leadership Promote Employees’ Constructive Deviance? Affective Events Perspective. Academy Of Management Proceedings, 2020(1), 14938.

Dahling, J. and Gutworth, M., 2017. Loyal rebels? A test of the normative conflict model of constructive deviance. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 38(8), pp.1167-1182.

Galperin, B. and Burke, R., 2006. Uncovering the relationship between workaholism and workplace destructive and constructive deviance: an exploratory study. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 17(2), pp.331-347.

Gary, J. (2013). Exploring the Concept and Use of Positive Deviance in Nursing. AJN, American Journal Of Nursing, 113(8), 26-34. doi: 10.1097/01.naj.0000432960.95762.5f

Gong, T., Wang, C. and Lee, K., 2020. The consequences of customer-oriented constructive deviance in luxury-hotel restaurants. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 57, p.102254.

Grant, A. and Berg, J., 2011. Prosocial Motivation at Work. 'The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship,. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199734610.013.0003

Hon, A. (2011). Shaping Environments Conductive to Creativity. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 53(1), 53-64. doi: 10.1177/1938965511424725

Hung, S., Durcikova, A., Lai, H., & Lin, W. (2011). The influence of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on individuals' knowledge sharing behavior. International Journal Of Human-Computer Studies, 69(6), 415-427. doi: 10.1016/j.ijhcs.2011.02.004

Kibler, E., Wincent, J., Kautonen, T., Cacciotti, G., & Obschonka, M. (2019). Can prosocial motivation harm entrepreneurs' subjective well-being?. Journal Of Business Venturing, 34(4), 608-624.

Lawrence, T. and Robinson, S., 2007. Ain't Misbehavin: Workplace Deviance as Organizational Resistance. Journal of Management, 33(3), pp.378-394.

Liu, D., Jiang, K., Shalley, C., Keem, S. and Zhou, J., 2016. Motivational mechanisms of employee creativity: A meta-analytic examination and theoretical extension of the creativity literature. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 137, pp.236-263.

Louw, K., Dunlop, P., Yeo, G. and Griffin, M., 2016. Mastery approach and performance approach: the differential prediction of organizational citizenship behavior and workplace deviance, beyond HEXACO personality. Motivation and Emotion, 40(4), pp.566-576.

Lundberg, C., Gudmundson, A. and Andersson, T., 2009. Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory of work motivation tested empirically on seasonal workers in hospitality and tourism. Tourism Management, 30(6), pp.890-899.

Mertens, W. and Recker, J., 2020. How store managers can empower their teams to engage in constructive deviance: Theory development through a multiple case study. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 52, p.101937.

Mertens, W., Recker, J., Kohlborn, T., & Kummer, T. (2016). A Framework for the Study of Positive Deviance in Organizations. Deviant Behavior, 37(11), 1288-1307. doi: 10.1080/01639625.2016.1174519

Mertens, W., Recker, J., Kummer, T., Kohlborn, T. and Viaene, S., 2016. Constructive deviance as a driver for performance in retail. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 30, pp.193-203.

Pepinsky, P., 1960. A Study of Productive Nonconformity. Gifted Child Quarterly, 4(4), pp.81-85.

Poortvliet, P., Anseel, F., & Theuwis, F. (2015). Mastery-approach and mastery-avoidance goals and their relation with exhaustion and engagement at work: The roles of emotional and instrumental support. Work & Stress, 29(2), 150-170. doi: 10.1080/02678373.2015.1031856

Reiss, S. (2012). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation. Teaching Of Psychology, 39(2), 152-156.

Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54-67.

Schiefele, U. and Schaffner, E., 2015. Teacher interests, mastery goals, and self-efficacy as predictors of instructional practices and student motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 42, pp.159-171.

Shukla, J., & Kark, R. (2020). Now You Do It, Now You Don’t: The Mixed Blessing of Creative Deviance as a Prosocial Behavior. Frontiers In Psychology, 11.

Stout, J. and Dasgupta, N., 2013. Mastering One’s Destiny. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(6), pp.748-762.

Vadera, A., Pratt, M. and Mishra, P., 2013. Constructive Deviance in Organizations. Journal of Management, 39(5), pp.1221-1276. doi: 10.1177/0149206313475816

Warren, D. (2003). Constructive and Destructive Deviance in Organizations. The Academy Of Management Review, 28(4), 622. doi: 10.2307/30040751

Yoon, H., Sung, S., Choi, J., Lee, K. and Kim, S., 2015. Tangible and Intangible Rewards and Employee Creativity: The Mediating Role of Situational Extrinsic Motivation. Creativity Research Journal, 27(4), pp.383-393.

External links[edit | edit source]