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Employee Time Theft: Conceptualization, Measure Development, and Validation

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Despite its prevalence, high cost, and practical import, employee time theft has received scant research attention. To facilitate future scholarship on this important topic, the present research endeavors to clarify the conceptualization of time theft and advance understanding regarding the range of its behavioral manifestations, develop and validate an instrument to assess time theft, and provide preliminary insights into its nomological net. Results, gathered across nine samples of employees who are paid on an hourly wage scale, suggest that time theft is a multidimensional formative construct, is distinct from other deviant work behaviors (e.g., withdrawal, property theft), and is influenced by instrumental (e.g., pay satisfaction) and expressive motives (e.g., boredom). Finally, time theft explained incremental variance in criterion variables (e.g., receipt or enactment of interpersonal help) controlling for the effects of other discrete manifestations of deviance (e.g., withdrawal). Implications for future scholarship and managerial practice are discussed. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
Received: 6 March 2020 Revised: 23 July 2021 Accepted: 4 August 2021
DOI: 10.1111/peps.12477
Employee time theft: Conceptualization, measure
development, and validation
Crystal M. Harold1Biyun Hu2,3Joel Koopman4
1Department of Human Resource
Management, Fox School of Business, Temple
University, Philadelphia, USA
2Business Administration, School of Business
and Management, Shanghai International
Studies University, Shanghai, China
3Institute of Organizational Behavior and
Organizational Neuroscience, Shanghai
International Studies University, Shanghai,
4Department of Management, Mays Business
School, Texas A&M University, Texas, USA
Crystal M. Harold, 355 Alter Hall, 1801 Lia-
couras Walk,Philadelphia PA 19122, USA.
Despite its prevalence, high cost, and practical import,
employee time theft has received scant research attention.
To facilitate future scholarship on this important topic, the
present research endeavors to clarify the conceptualiza-
tion of time theft and advance understanding regarding the
range of its behavioral manifestations, develop and validate
an instrument to assess time theft, and provide preliminary
insights into its nomological net. Results, gathered across
nine samples of employees who are paid on an hourly wage
scale, suggest that time theft is a multidimensional forma-
tive construct, is distinct from other deviant work behaviors
(e.g., withdrawal, property theft), and is influenced by instru-
mental (e.g., pay satisfaction) and expressive motives (e.g.,
boredom). Finally, time theft explained incremental variance
in criterion variables (e.g., receipt or enactment of interper-
sonal help) controlling for the effects of other discrete man-
ifestations of deviance (e.g., withdrawal). Implications for
future scholarship and managerial practice are discussed.
construct validation, employee time theft, hourly employees
In the summer of 2018, the California Department of Motor Vehiclesmade national headlines when the State Auditor’s
office revealed that, over the course of 4 years, an employee slept on the job for roughly 3 hours each day (California
State Auditor, 2018). In this same report, investigators uncovered extensive time abuses by two other State employ-
ees who would regularly arrive to work at the start of the workday only to immediately proceed to take extended
breaks and even leave their worksite without permission. Over a 4-year period, the Auditor’s report estimated that
Personnel Psychology. 2022;75:347–382. © 2021 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
... As ethical behaviors are rarely automatic and effortless, scholars have highlighted the need for a great deal of motivation, such as deontic or moral motivation, to engage in such behaviors (Hirsh et al., 2018;Treviño et al., 2014). We posit that meaningful work may foster this sense of motivation among employees, and thus examine whether meaningful work can motivate employees to speak up and take personal risks to enhance ethical behaviors in the organization (promote ethical voice; Huang & Paterson, 2017) and can facilitate ethical selfregulation, motivating employees to resist impulses to engage in unethical pro-organizational behaviors (UPBs, Mo et al., 2022) or selfinterested unethical behaviors (time theft; Harold et al., 2022). ...
... As an unethical behavior, time theft occurs when "employees intentionally steal time rightfully belonging to their company and includes behavior such as arriving late to work, taking extra or longer than acceptable breaks, daydreaming instead of working" (Henle et al., 2010, p. 53). Time theft, a relatively minor and non-aggressive form of deviance, is widely prevalent in organizations, goes against organizational norms, is volitional in nature, and threatens the interest and well-being of organizations (Harold et al., 2022;Lorinkova & Perry, 2017). Dutyoriented employees are less prone to self-interested behaviors, including time theft, given their moral obligation to act ethically, and are not involved in behaviors that may threaten the organization's wellbeing (Hannah et al., 2014). ...
... Because moral ownership promotes moral actions or agency, employees with high moral ownership can control their impulses to engage in self-interested, unethical conduct. Time theft is a morally tainted behavior (Henle et al., 2010;Harold et al., 2022). Those with moral ownership do not engage in time theft, as these behaviors are inconsistent with their moral standards and may violate them (Ogunfowora et al., 2021). ...
... While research has shown that perceived overqualification likely invokes deviant behavior in the workplace (Luksyte et al., 2011), scholars have overlooked its link with time theft. Overall, overqualified employees are likely to hold a negative job attitude and be less motivated to perform job tasks (for a review, see Erdogan & Bauer, 2021), which will tend to exacerbate their engagement in discrete deviant behavior such as time theft (Erdogan & Bauer, 2021;Harold et al., 2021). However, it remains unclear why overqualified employees may actively engage in this behavior. ...
... Time theft, as a specific type of deviant behavior, occurs when employees do not spend scheduled work time on job tasks. The literature discusses two major features of time theft: misallocation of time at work and acceptance of compensation for time not spent at work (Harold et al., 2021). However, unlike other types of deviance, which can be a result of avoidance (i.e., escaping an unsatisfactory work situation; Carpenter & Berry, 2017), time theft often manifests because employees actively engage in this form of deviance with successful completion of the behavior (Harold et al., 2021). ...
... The literature discusses two major features of time theft: misallocation of time at work and acceptance of compensation for time not spent at work (Harold et al., 2021). However, unlike other types of deviance, which can be a result of avoidance (i.e., escaping an unsatisfactory work situation; Carpenter & Berry, 2017), time theft often manifests because employees actively engage in this form of deviance with successful completion of the behavior (Harold et al., 2021). This is particularly in line with the theory of workplace deviance, which posits that employees engage in workplace deviance to reduce their sense of disparity and vent unfavorable feelings. ...
Integrating the theory of workplace deviance with person–environment fit theory, we propose a two-pathway model to explain why and how employees who feel over- qualified engage in time theft behavior. Specifically, we anticipate that feeling over- qualified will negatively influence focal employees' experienced authority fairness and erode their work meaningfulness, which in turn will lead to increased time theft behavior. Further, we argue that voice endorsement serves as a key boundary condi- tion mitigating the negative effects of perceived overqualification. We conducted two multi-waved and multi-sourced field studies to test our proposed hypotheses. Study 1 (247 employees and 47 supervisors) revealed that perceived overqualifica- tion is associated with time theft behavior through the mediators of experienced authority fairness and meaningfulness. Study 2 (405 employees and 73 supervisors) replicated the findings of Study 1 and tested our full model. We discuss the theoreti- cal and practical implications of our findings.
... Normative social influence has promising potential for understanding a wide range of workplace behaviors (Morris et al., 2015), yet research that examines it in workplace contexts is rather scarce (Jacobson et al., 2020). Considering the negative consequences of time theft, it is crucial to refine the theoretical understanding of its antecedents (Henle et al., 2010), and to explore the influence of norms on time theft behaviors have recently been identified an an important avenue for research (Harold et al., 2022). The current research thus builds on previous non-experimental work to establish whether there is a direct effect of signaling either a time theft norm or an appropriate work behavior norm. ...
... Moreover, since the current research was conducted, a more extensive time theft measure has been developed by Harold et al. (2022). Future research may consider using this new measure, as it contains a subdimension that was not covered in the present research: "falsifying work hours" which refers to intentionally misrepresenting or manipulating work hours in tracking systems to add time not worked to one's record. ...
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Time theft—time that employees waste or spend not working during their scheduled work hours—poses serious costs to many employers. Although previous research has suggested the importance of social norms for understanding time theft behavior, experimental studies are lacking. This paper presents the results of two preregistered experiments that examined if information about whether most people engage in time theft or not (descriptive norms) has effects on intentions and attitudes to steal time at work. The results confirmed that people are less willing to conduct time theft if they are led to believe that others avoid such behaviors (Experiment 1, N = 170). However, the same norm information did not alter people's moral judgments of coworkers who engage in time theft (Experiment 2, N = 183). The findings tentatively suggest that the less time theft employees see, the less time theft they will commit.
... Therefore, time theft, which includes late or early departures, extra or long breaks, and fantasizing or daydreaming instead of working [26], can release employees' pressure as a way to compensate for the consumption of individual resources [27]. Although it does not require or imply malicious intent by employees [28], time theft is a globally prevalent phenomenon that is proven to be costly for the organization [29], resulting in estimated economic losses exceeding USD 700 billion annually [30], leading to a dilemma of sustainable development of organizations [31]. However, this hidden but chronic and long-term negative behavior has often been overlooked by previous studies when compared with other negative behaviors [32]. ...
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Organizations are under pressure to seek out new and sustainable practices to address the deepening inequity and waste of limited resources. This study aims to explore the relationship between upward social comparison (USC) and time theft of dispatched employees by proposing a mediated moderation model and examining (1) whether emotional exhaustion mediates this relationship and (2) the roles of relational energy and psychological availability as different kinds of resources on the basis of conservation of resource (COR) theory. Data were collected from a questionnaire survey completed by 978 dispatched employees from a Chinese labor dispatch enterprise. SPSS Macro Process and MPLUS were used to test the hypotheses of the proposed mediated moderation model. Results showed that (1) emotional exhaustion partially mediates the positive relationship between USC and time theft; (2) both relational energy and psychological availability negatively moderate the positive relationship between USC and emotional exhaustion and further influence time theft; (3) relational energy is positively related to psychological availability; (4) psychological availability fully mediates the moderating effect of relational energy. This study not only contributes to the existing literature on social comparison and COR theory but also provides insights into how to mitigate employee time theft, thereby fostering the sustainable development of both employees and organizations. The implications, limitations, and future directions were discussed.
... Finally, facial recognition technology could be instrumental in monitoring employees' time attendance. For example, buddy punching or beating the time clock could adversely affect organizations [114][115][116]. The use of facial recognition technology would prevent such scenarios, as an organization would be able to make sure that the time attendance of all the employees is accurately processed. ...
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Throughout the past few years, the oil and gas industry in the United Arab Emirates has grown significantly, and is currently one of the top ten oil producers in the world. As a result, it is at risk of physical security threats, including theft, unauthorized access, vandalism, espionage, and other incidents which could disrupt its operation. Consequently, significant investments in the latest security technologies are necessary to protect this critical infrastructure and maintain its international standing. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to examine whether integrating facial recognition technology (FRT) with a physical security system in this sector would improve physical security performance and efficiently mitigate potential threats. A quantitative approach was applied to collect the essential information with a sample size of 371 selected through a simple random sampling method to ensure the validity and reliability of the research results. In addition, regression analysis was conducted using Smart-PLS version 3.3.9 based on (SEM) to define the significant relationships between the hypothesis applied in the conceptual model. Furthermore, the findings were significant as they provided the basis for future studies for the practical application of FRT to enhance the UAE oil and gas company’s resilience to physical security threats.
... Recent attention to workday productivity has identified the concepts of "time theft" and "time banditry." Time theft refers to the idea that when employees who are being paid for their time are not working while at work, they are essentially costing their employer money [15]. A further concern is time banditry at work, a variant of time theft related to deviant behavior (i.e., purposefully taking longer to use the restroom or using the restroom when it is not needed) [16]. ...
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Purpose of Review This review examines the associations between overactive bladder syndrome (OAB) and the workplace, specifically focusing on aspects of employment, occupational settings, and work toilet environment (i.e., toilet infrastructure and access) that may contribute to the development of OAB or be impacted by urinary symptoms resulting from OAB. Recent Findings Several, cross-sectional, and clinical studies have identified significant bi-directional associations between the workplace and bladder health, including OAB, as well as important barriers and restrictions facing certain workers afflicted by OAB. Summary While OAB symptoms and treatments can have negative impacts on employment and occupational opportunities, workplace and occupational settings can have deleterious impacts on bladder health and contribute to the development and exacerbation of OAB. Even though the evidence-based relating OAB and occupational health is expansive and growing, there is still a need for research focusing on homogenous occupational and control group comparisons to determine the causal factors associated with these findings.
While research suggests that organizational cynicism prompts employees to engage in organizationally directed deviant behaviors, questions remain regarding whether, how and when organizational cynicism can also prompt employees to engage in deviance toward customers, who are third parties outside the organization-employee exchange relationship. Drawing on conservation of resources theory, we develop and test a model that addresses these questions. We theorize that organizational cynicism is an adverse and stressful experience that drains employees’ psychological resources over time, which in turn leads to customer-directed deviance. We further propose that perceptions of supervisor support help employees cope functionally with their lack of resources and reduce customer-directed deviant behavior. We tested our predictions in a two-week daily experience sampling study of call-center representatives and found that organizational cynicism indirectly predicts customer-directed deviant behavior via resource depletion when PSS is lower than when it is higher. Two post hoc studies (including a three-wave panel survey conducted over 6 months and a three-wave, time-separated survey conducted over one month) addressed the methodological limitations of this investigation and ruled out alternative explanations for our results. Implications for organizational cynicism and customer service literature are discussed.
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Time banditry mengacu pada perilaku karyawan yang mengabaikan tanggung jawab tertentu dan menggunakan waktu luang untuk mengejar kepentingan pribadi seperti hobi dan bisnis sampingan. Time banditry kurang mendapat perhatian padahal perilaku bandit waktu menimbulkan masalah yang signifikan bagi organisasi mengenai frekuensi dan biaya keuangan. Oleh karena itu, penelitian ini akan melakukan kajian literature tentang anteseden time banditry dari penelitian yang telah dilakukan hingga tahun 2023. Database yang digunakan dalam penelitian ini bersumber dari Scopus. Informasi yang akan ditampilkan dalam penelitian ini antara lain adalah banyaknya dokumen menurut tahun terbit, nama penulis, affiliasi, negara/territorial, dan sumber dokumen. Selain itu akan dilakukan visualisasi pemetaan publikasi menurut penulis dan jejaringnya, serta kata kunci yang digunakan dalam penelitian. Hasil akhir penelitian tidak hanya bermanfaat bagi organisasi dalam mengambil kebijakan terkait time banditry, juga dapat digunakan sebagai dasar model pengembangan bagi penelitian time banditry berikutnya di masa depan.
Why do employees engage in time theft? Existing studies primarily view time theft as a destructive behavior driven by self-oriented motives, overlooking the fact that positive motives may also induce employee time theft. The main purpose of this article is to identity and develop an integrative framework for the motives of employee time theft. Building upon a thorough review of the literature, we propose a two-dimensional framework for the motives of time theft, including goal orientation (self-oriented vs. work-oriented vs. other-oriented) and proactivity (proactive vs. reactive) dimensions. We further integrate theories from relevant literature (e.g., impression management theory, effort-recovery model, and prosocial motivation) and identify 11 motives of time theft. This article expands research on time theft and reminds managers to pay attention to the complexities of employees' time theft motives.
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Counterproductive work behavior (CWB) is a topic of considerable importance for organizational scholars and practitioners. Yet, despite a wide-ranging consensus that negative affect (NA) is a precursor to CWB, there is surprisingly little consensus as to whether CWB enactment will subsequently lead to lower or higher levels of NA. That is, scholars disagree as to whether CWB has a reparative (negative) or generative (positive) effect on subsequent NA. We submit that both perspectives have validity, and thus the question should not be whether CWB is associated with lower or higher subsequent levels of NA, but rather for whom. This article is dedicated to answering this question. Drawing from the behavioral concordance model, we position empathy as a moderator of this relationship, such that CWB will be reparative for those with lower levels of empathy and generative for those with higher levels of empathy. Findings across 3 experience-sampling studies support our hypotheses and highlight a number of interesting directions for future research. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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