How General is General Strain Theory? An Inquiry of Workplace Deviance in Iran

Published date01 June 2024
AuthorSaeed Kabiri,Christopher M. Donner,Javad Maddahi,Seyyedeh Masoomeh (Shamila) Shadmanfaat,Wim Hardyns
Date01 June 2024
Subject MatterOriginal Articles
How General is General Strain
Theory? An Inquiry of
Workplace Deviance in Iran
Saeed Kabiri
, Christopher M. Donner
, Javad Maddahi
Seyyedeh Masoomeh (Shamila) Shadmanfaat
and Wim Hardyns
Occupational deviance is one of the most rampant and alarming phenomena in the workplace. It can
have negative effects on the individual employee, the organization, the profession, and the larger
society. Therefore, it is important to better understand the etiology of such behavior in the
hopes of providing solutions to reduce it. One such theory that may provide a conceptual frame-
work to help understand workplace deviance is Agnews general strain theory. As such, the main
goal of this research was to examine the predictive utility of general strain theory in explaining
workplace deviance. Using a sample of 336 private bankers in Iran, the f‌indings suggest that the
important theoretical concepts of workplace strain, subjective strain, negative emotion, and deviant
motivation all predicted workplace misconduct. Consistent with the theory, additional results dem-
onstrated important mediated relationships, such that strain was indirectly related to workplace
deviance through negative emotions and deviant motivation. Specif‌ic results, policy implications,
and study limitations are discussed.
general strain theory, workplace deviance, criminology, quantitative methodology
Workplace deviance is a complex phenomenon. It encompasses antisocial behavior that is com-
mitted while, simultaneously, involved in legitimate (i.e., prosocial) activities (Robinson & Bennett,
1997). Examples include theft, lying to supervisors and the public, hostility towards customers and
fellow coworkers, dereliction of duties, and falsif‌ication of off‌icial documents. Such behaviors may
Academic Center for Education, Culture and Research, Tehran, Iran
Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
University of Guilan, Rasht, Iran
Department of Criminology, Criminal Law and Social Law, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
Corresponding Author:
Christopher M. Donner, Loyola University Chicago, USA.
Original Article
International Criminal Justice Review
2024, Vol. 34(2) 147-164
© 2023 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10575677231172833
be rationalized by the employee for a variety of reasons, including for the betterment of the individ-
ual, for betterment of the organization, and even for the betterment of society (e.g., Marasi et al.,
2018; Robinson et al., 2019; Yasir & Jan, 2022). Similarly, the consequences of occupational mis-
conduct can affect the individual (e.g., suspension, termination), the organization (e.g., loss of
revenue, liability lawsuits), and even the profession (e.g., loss of legitimacy).
Workplace deviance is a global problem and the Middle East is no exception (e.g., Yasir & Jan,
2022). Accordingto Düşmezkalender et al. (2021),the majority of employees in Islamic organizations
adhere to Islamic work ethics, but counterproductive behavior and occupational deviance remain
important issues facing organizations in this region. Singh (2019) conducted research in the United
Arab Emirates (UAE) and concluded that interpersonal and organizational workplace deviance nega-
tively impacted an organizations functioning and productivity. Research from Reisi and
Karimiankakolaki (2021) demonstrated that medical center employees have a moderate-to-high pro-
pensity to engage in deviant behavior. Similarly, Kabiri et al. (2022) found that 21% of their Iranian
respondents engaged in occupationaldeviance behavior. Other studieshave also uncovered the signif‌i-
cant prevalence of occupational deviance across Iranian organizations (e.g., Bekhradinasab &
Zholanezhad, 2021; Ghaedamini Harouni et al., 2022; Kakemam et al., 2021; Pooladi Kharasha &
Esmaeili Shad, 2019; Teimouri et al., 2021). Lastly, there have been previous attempts to examine
the issue of workplace deviance in the Iranian banking industry (Baghini et al., 2014; Ebrahimpour
Ahandani et al.,2019), but most of these studieshave been conducted from a management perspective.
Due to its various consequences, it is important to investigate the etiology of workplace deviance
so that managers, administrators, and policy-makers may be in a better position to reduce its preva-
lence. One such theory that may provide a conceptual framework to help understand workplace devi-
ance is Agnews general strain theory (1992; 2006). General strain theory has been widely tested
among traditional criminal outcomes, and the f‌indings largely suggest that strain is an important cor-
relate in deviant behavior (see e.g., Agnew, 2006; 2011). However, there has only been a limited
amount of research examining the link between GST and workplace deviance; this growing body
of scholarship, consistent with the overall body of GST research, generally demonstrates that strained
employees are more likely to engage in occupational misconduct (e.g., Bishopp et al., 2016; Donegan
& Ganon, 2008; Leasure, 2016; Mitchell & Ambrose, 2012). Following this line of scholarship, we
utilize a sample of 336 employees from private banks in northern Iran to explore workplace deviance
through a general strain framework.
Literature Review
Overview of General Strain Theory
Agnews general strain theory (1992; 2006) can be seen as an extension of Mertons classic strain
theory (1938) as it broadens the sources and types of strain as well as the scope of crimes that can be
explained by the theory. In GST, Agnew posits that people are pressured into crime by strain via
negative affective states (e.g., anger, depression). According to Agnew (1992; 2006), there are three
types of strain: (1) strain as the failure to achieve positively valued goals, (2) strain as the removal
of positively valued stimuli, and (3) strain as the presentation of negative stimuli. The f‌irst type of
strain results from a disjunction between aspirations and actual achievements, a disjunction between
expectations and actual achievements, or a disjunction between fair outcomes and actual outcomes.
The second type ofstrain results from the removal of apositive stimulus, such as the lossof something
good in ones life (e.g.,a romantic break-up, a job loss). The third type of strain results from the intro-
duction of a negativestimulus, such as the presence of an adverseexperience (e.g., being treated poorly
by others). Any of these strains can trigger a negative affective state, which can then lead people to
respond in a deviant way if they do not have adequate coping mechanisms in place.
148 International Criminal Justice Review 34(2)

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