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An HR Glossary for HR Terms

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

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Work Behavior

Work Behavior

What Is Work Behavior? 

Work behavior refers to activities employees perform to meet the responsibilities and goals of their roles. Examples include collaborating with other department staff to complete a project and conducting an inventory to submit end-of-the-month reports.

What’s the Difference Between Work Attitude and Work Behavior

Work behavior is action-based—how an employee does their job and how they get their tasks completed. Work attitude, on the other hand, is focused on thoughts and feelings—how an employee feels about various aspects of their job, including the work they perform, their relationships with coworkers and managers, and their perception of the company they work for. 

Attitudes drive certain work behaviors, for better and worse. For example, an employee with a positive work attitude may be more likely to invest more time and energy into a project, leading to higher performance. They may create stronger friendships at work, be more welcoming to new team members, and inspire others to perform as a result of their attitude. Meanwhile, an employee with a negative work attitude, who feels unfulfilled, underappreciated, or otherwise dissatisfied with their job, can exhibit behaviors like inattention to detail, harsh or excessive criticism, absenteeism, and more, to the point that they may even drag performance down for an entire department.

Why Is Understanding Work Behavior Important? 

Understanding your employees’ work behavior is essential to uncovering ways to elevate your business’s operations, work culture, and employer brand. 

The way team members act and interact with one another ultimately affects a company’s bottom line. In general, positive, professional behaviors fuel productivity and a company’s status, while poor, unprofessional behaviors are hindrances to growth. 

A successful organization requires employees who are not only skilled and well-trained, but also who are in roles that align with their strengths and weaknesses. Every role requires unique traits; when the right individuals are placed in the right roles where their work behaviors are beneficial, employees can more easily and effectively engage with their work. Assessing work behaviors can help employers decipher the types of people they should hire for unique positions. 

What Are the 4 Key Work Behaviors to Understand?

There are four main types of work behaviors to track. Each type plays a role in why an employee behaves the way they do in the workplace. 

By understanding each, you can gain more insight into the behaviors of your team members and more importantly, you can identify how and where to initiate effective organizational changes. 

1. Job Performance

Job performance focuses on how well an employee performs their job duties. Employers may assess the quality and quantity of their work to evaluate an employee’s overall performance. 

Predictors of Job Performance

What influences an employee’s performance? 

  • Cognitive ability: Abilities such as logical reasoning and verbal, computational, and analytical skills may determine how successful someone will be in achieving the goals of a given task. 

  • Interpersonal relationships: When employees feel supported by their managers and teammates and treated fairly, they’re empowered to perform better. 

  • Stress: When paired with adequate support and resources, stress can propel projects to completion, while unproductive stress, or pressure without support and direction, leads to burnout, poor output and quality, and more. 

  • Work attitudes: Positive or negative work attitudes affect behavior, and that goes for the attitudes and behaviors of other employees as well. The feelings an employee has, or is exposed to, directly impact their work output.

2. Organizational Citizenship

While job performance centers on execution, organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) focus on behaviors that are voluntary. Employees execute these voluntary behaviors to help people and the company. 

Some OCBs an employee may display include: 

  • Helping a teammate understand an assignment 

  • Offering suggestions to management on how to improve workflow processes

  • Participating in culture initiatives 

Predictors of Organizational Citizenship

Organizational citizenship behaviors are rooted in motivation. Where do employees find the motivation to engage with their work and proactively contribute to company wide growth? Some answers include: 

  • Interpersonal relationships: A good relationship with managers and colleagues fosters a safe and positive work environment where employees feel empowered to volunteer solutions and help those around them.

  • Work attitudes: When employees feel inspired by the company mission and aligned with the values, they are more likely to exhibit OCB. 

  • Age and tenure: Depth of experience can predispose employees to demonstrate OCBs more frequently as they feel they have a lot to contribute. 

  • Personality: The tendency to frequently display OCBs are also linked to outgoing or conscientious personality traits. 

3. Absenteeism 

Absenteeism looks at the frequency of absences at work. An employee’s absenteeism may indicate the types of changes an employer should make in a role. For example, if an employee is absent often due to family obligations, you may want to offer flexible work options (i.e., remote/hybrid structure or varied work hours) to help them adequately fulfill their job responsibilities. 

Predictors of Absenteeism

Disengagement in their role, illness, family matters, and vacations are all possible reasons a team member may be absent: 

  • Health: Employees can fall ill, which will make them unable to work. 

  • Work-life balance: Family responsibilities can create circumstances where an employee may need to be absent from work. 

  • Negative attitudes: If employees feel disengaged at work and do not like their jobs, they may be absent more often than employees who feel engaged. 

  • Age: Younger employees are more likely to have higher rates of absenteeism from work than older employees. 

4. Turnover 

Turnover is how often employees leave a company and are replaced. Higher than expected turnover can harm your organization’s overall performance and productivity, and put more pressure on those who stay. Extremely low turnover can also be detrimental, as teams develop group-think attitudes and become extremely resistant to change or new ideas. 

Predictors of Turnover

The following factors can affect turnover rates

  • Compensation: People who feel they are not being compensated fairly may be more inclined to leave their organization, and excessively high compensation can keep unhappy, disengaged employees from leaving. 

  • Poor workplace wellbeing: Those who are unsatisfied or who feel uncared for at work will often look elsewhere for opportunities. 

  • Stress: Roles that cause high levels of stress will motivate people to seek other jobs. On the other hand, a workplace that presents no challenges encourages complacency. 

  • Age and tenure: Younger employees whose lives and careers are evolving rapidly have less practical ties to one company as opposed to individuals with dependents to support. Additionally, without effective onboarding, new hires are also prone to turnover due to stress caused by lack of direction and support. 

How Does Personality Affect Work Behavior?

Personality can play a role in work behavior and career success. Personality is complex and encompasses an individual’s thought, emotional, and behavioral patterns, and it may affect how we approach our work. 

Understanding an employee’s personality can help leaders better mentor their employees or shift roles in ways that highlight and grow employees’ strengths. 

Psychologists studying the differences between individuals’ personalities often divide a single personality into five major traits, or the Big Five. Understanding where an employee falls on the spectrum of each trait can help employers predict the most suitable roles and support structures for employees:

  1. Openness: Openness looks at how curious, creative, and appreciative an employee is toward new ideas, versus how resistant they are to change. 

  2. Conscientiousness: This trait focuses on how likely a person is to be careful and thoughtful when it comes to getting their work done. 

  3. Extroversion: Extroversion measures a person’s sociability and outgoingness. 

  4. Agreeableness: Agreeableness is the level at which a person has a tendency to get along with others and show compassion, or to be calculating and critical.

  5. Neuroticism: This trait looks at how likely someone is to be confident and unshakeable or sensitive and anxious in the face of stress. 

It’s also important to remember that personalities aren’t set in stone—for example, a person may seem cautious in a particular situation, but that doesn’t mean they’re always going to be resistant to change or that they even have a cautious personality. Additionally, any of these traits can be weaknesses, strengths, or entirely neutral depending on the context of the situation.