Prosocial Rule Breaking (PSRB): Going Beyond The Limits

Author Name(s): Prof. Pritam Bhadade, Dr. Ruchi Sao, Prof. Shravan Chandak
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The paper makes an attempt to throw light on the concept of prosocial rule breaking behavior. This study will identify the instances of PSRB at the workplace and the reasons of demonstration of prosocial rule breaking by the employees. This is an exploratory study purely based on secondary data published in various research papers, reports and articles. Deviance from work or not following the rules and regulations has always been considered as against the organization. The deviance behavior may be constructive or destructive. However, there are certain behaviors which are now termed as positive when it comes to breaking rules for the benefit of any stakeholder. Positive deviance from any rule of the company is definitely breaking of rule or code of conduct. But, what if the rule breaking is for the benefit of the employee or any client? Prosocial rule breaking is practiced by many employees for the right reasons. PSRB is also called as a constructive deviance which is in the greater interest of the organization. It is often done to retain the clients and customers and provide them satisfaction. The perception for the same action under PSRB may sometimes be considered as positive or negative deviance depending upon the impact of the action; for instance, whistleblowing. Studies have established a certain relationship of PSRB with job autonomy, coworker behavior and risk taking tendency.

Keywords Constructive Deviance, Coworker, Customer, PSRB


The concept of prosocial behavior is first applied by A. P. Brief and S. J. Motowidlo to an organizational context. The root of origination of pro-social behavior is in behavior science literature. The individual can go above and beyond its responsibilities assigned to them in an effort to aid others [1]. If any employee breaks a rule, he / she would probably land up getting a warning or even a termination for noncompliance with company rules and policies. We often feel that the disgruntled employees who are critics of the system may act as rebellious and think of breaking the rules. The breaking of formal rules is generally viewed as unusual behavior displayed by angry or selfinterested employees, or by employees who do not identify with the organization or its goals. In contrast this paper highlights that the rule breaking often represents positively intended employee initiative, referred to here as prosocial rule breaking. Pro-social rule breaking is defined as any instance where an employee intentionally violates a formal organizational policy, regulation, or prohibition with the primary intention of promoting the welfare of the organization or one of its stakeholders [2]. But, when we talk about the concept of prosocial rule breaking (PSRB), certain companies may also give reward to the employees for breaking a rule.


This study identifies various factors influencing prosocial rule breaking behavior. The factors are job meaning, job autonomy, empathy, proactive personality, the behavior of their coworkers, and their propensity for risk-taking. There are other factors which are customer directed, employee characteristic’s (justice sensitivity, moral identity and empathy), customer characteristics (reaction to policy, contribution to the problem) and situational characteristics (workgroup climate, structure and support). To measure the PSRB a General PSRB Scale is developed by Dahling, 2012. The males are more likely to partake in pro-social rule breaking behavior. It is also found that the prosocial rule breaking behavior is not always good for the employees. It is possible that the supervisor may provide a negative performance rating to his/ her co-worker for rule breaking behavior. Some gestures which are good for the customers may be dysfunctional to all other parties. In some industry like hospitality the prosocial rule breaking behavior may be used as one of the selection criterion

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