Off-Duty Deviance: Organizational Policies and Evidence for Two
Brian D. Lyons
Brian J. Hoffman
University of Georgia
William H. Bommer
California State University, Fresno
Colby L. Kennedy and Andrea L. Hetrick
University of Georgia
Anecdotal evidence suggests that organizations are increasingly concerned with employee off-duty
deviance (ODD), yet management research has rarely investigated this type of deviant behavior. We
define ODD as behaviors committed outside the workplace or when off-duty that are deviant by
organizational and/or societal standards, jeopardize the employee’s status within the organization, and
threaten the interests and well-being of the organization and its stakeholders. Three studies are presented
to better understand the relevance of ODD to modern organizations and then to understand potential
approaches to reduce the incidence of ODD. The first study provides a qualitative review of publicly
available ODD policies within the Fortune 500; the results showed that 13.4% of the Fortune 500 had a
publicly available ODD policy, with the majority prohibiting criminal forms of ODD to protect the firm’s
reputation. The next 2 studies examine the efficacy of different approaches to reduce criminal ODD:
policy adoption and personnel selection. In the second study, a longitudinal, quasi-experimental design
showed a significant—albeit modest—reduction in criminal ODD following the adoption of a conduct
policy. In the third and final study, a criterion-related validity design supported the predictive validity of
general mental ability and prior deviance in predicting criminal ODD. This compendium of studies
provides an initial empirical investigation into ODD and offers implications relevant to the deviance
literature, policy development, and personnel selection.
Keywords: deviance, off-duty, policy, intelligence, background checks
The management literature has increasingly focused on the
prevention of “on-duty” employee deviant behavior, commonly
referred to as counterproductive work behavior (CWB; Berry,
Ones, & Sackett, 2007). Despite the substantial empirical attention
toward CWB, researchers have largely ignored “off-duty” behav-
iors that may be harmful to organizations and their stakeholders.
Certainly, the news is replete with stories of employees engaging
in off-duty behaviors deemed as deviant by their employers. For
example, Adam Smith was terminated by his employer, Vante Inc.,
for posting a video of himself berating a Chick-Fil-A employee
about Chick-Fil-A’s controversial corporate policy prohibiting
openly gay employees (Marketwired, 2012). In late 2011, the
Chief of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was arrested
for driving under the influence, which resulted in unfavorable
media coverage and his ultimate resignation (Pasztor, 2011). These
off-duty behaviors—the former representing a noncriminal expres-
sion of speech and the latter being a criminal act—led to punitive
outcomes for each employee, one resulting in termination and the
other in resignation. At least anecdotally, these and other cases are
suggestive of a current issue facing many organizations: managing
employee deviance away from work.
Organizational efforts to manage these types of behaviors are
evident in at least two types of staffing-related processes: pre-
employment screening of prospective employees and monitor-
ing incumbent employees’ behaviors off-duty. The first strategy
to manage off-duty behavior—pre-employment screening— has
frequently been discussed in the literature through the content
domains of social media investigations, drug testing, and criminal
This article was published Online First November 23, 2015.
Brian D. Lyons, Department of Management, Elon University; Brian J.
Hoffman, Department of Psychology, University of Georgia; William H.
Bommer, Department of Management, California State University, Fresno;
Colby L. Kennedy and Andrea L. Hetrick, Department of Psychology,
University of Georgia.
Brian J. Hoffman is a visiting professor in the Department of Industrial
Psychology and People Management at the University of Johannesburg.
Brian D. Lyons and Brian J. Hoffman contributed equally to this article.
William H. Bommer and Colby L. Kennedy contributed equally to the
delivery of this article. Portions of this article were presented at the 27th
annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psy-
chology, San Diego, CA, and the 73rd annual conference of the Academy
of Management, Orlando, FL. We thank Nicholas S. McMillen, Robert W.
Martin, Sarah A. Patton, Katelyn C. Briggs, and Sydney R. Siver for their
assistance in the data collection process. We would also like to thank
Associate Editor Chris Berry and the two anonymous reviewers for their
helpful feedback throughout the revision process.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Brian D.
Lyons, Department of Management, Elon University, Martha and Spencer
Love School of Business, Campus Box 2075, Elon, NC 27244. E-mail:
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Journal of Applied Psychology © 2015 American Psychological Association
2016, Vol. 101, No. 4, 463–483 0021-9010/16/$12.00 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/apl0000066