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Cyberloafing: Vice or Virtue?

Cyberloafing: Vice or Virtue?
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Author(s): Constant D. Beugre (Delaware State University, USA) and Daeryong Kim (Delaware State University, USA)
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 2
Source title: Emerging Trends and Challenges in Information Technology Management
Source Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-019-6.ch228
ISBN13: 9781616921286
EISBN13: 9781466665361

Abstract

In this article we use the concepts of virtue and vice to explain the extent to which cyberloafing can have positive or negative consequences. We argue that under some circumstances, cyberloafing can be viewed as a vice—leading to counterproductive behaviors. However, as a virtue, cyberloafing can provide constructive recreational opportunities to employees, allowing them to better learn the technology. Thus, managers should develop Internet usage policies that integrate both the positive and negative consequences of cyberloafing. Cyberloafing refers to any voluntary act of employees using their company’s Internet access during office hours to surf nonwork-related web sites for nonwork purposes, and assess nonwork-related e-mail (Lim, 2002). Recent research has considered cyberloafing as a counterproductive behavior (Lim, 2002; Beugré, 2003). Despite the focus on its negative impact, one may wonder whether cyberloafing can be considered as a constructive behavior likely to boost employee productivity. Cyberloafing may be constructive when it helps employees and the organization. However, it can be destructive when it prevents employees from being productive. Hence, all Internet usage may not be perceived as abusive and costly to the organization. The character of the contemporary work environment with its flexible, open and autonomous nature has blurred the line between work and life. Thus, what constitutes Internet abuse in the workplace is less clear (Anandarajan, 2002). The purpose of this article is to explore the extent to which cyberloafing is construed as a constructive or destructive behavior. In so doing, we challenge the conventional wisdom that cyberloafing is a form of workplace deviance (Beugré, 2003; Lim, 2002, Lim, Teo, & Loo, 2001). Rather, we contend that cyberloafing can be destructive or constructive, depending on the circumstances and the user’s intentions. This approach has both theoretical and practical implications. From the theoretical standpoint, researchers may analyze the conditions under which cyberloafing is detrimental to the individual and/or the organization and the conditions under which it can have positive consequences. From the practical standpoint, managers may use cyberloafing as a way of helping employees to better manipulate the technology they use at work. We use the concepts of vice and virtue to refer to the positive and negative consequences of cyberloafing. Webster’s New Unabridged Dictionary defines vice as an immoral, evil habit or practice, a defect or a shortcoming, and virtue as moral excellence, goodness; righteousness. As a vice, cyberloafing is counterproductive, preventing the organization from reaching its goals. As a virtue, cyberloafing is a means of increasing employee productivity. The question then remains; under what conditions can cyberloafing be a virtue or a vice? To judge cyberloafing as constructive or destructive, one needs some standard of comparison. We argue that three criteria may help determine the constructiveness or destructiveness of cyberloafing. These criteria include: 1) A departure from a norm. The employee is expected to use his or her computer for work-related activities. Doing otherwise would be considered destructive. 2) Cyberloafing reduces the cyberloafer’s work performance. 3) Cyberloafing has harmful effects on the organization in terms of reduced performance, high costs, or tarnished reputation. Following these criteria, we argue that cyberloafing is destructive when it violates a company’s Internet usage policies or reduces employee and organizational performance. Cyberloafing is destructive and constitutes a form of employee deviance (Lim, 2002) in so far as it represents a voluntary behavior that violates significant organizational norms and in so doing threatens the well-being of an organization, its members, or both (Robinson & Bennett, 1995). We use the constructs of destructive cyberloafing and constructive cyberloafing to explain the extent to which cyberloafing may have positive or negative consequences in an organization.

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