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Workplace Deviance Leads to Collaboration of UT Professor, Student

Published: September 11, 2009
It was a topic that intrigued University of Tampa student Dana Robbins ’10. Deviance in the workplace was something on which she hadn’t found much research and the issue, introduced by UT professor Bella Galperin, inspired Robbins to action.

An honors student, she decided to up the ante of Galperin’s management class by implementing an honors tutorial. Galperin, who had spent years studying workplace deviance, said she was excited to help foster the interest, research and presentation skills of one of her students.

“I was lucky in my academic career in that I had a lot of mentors,” said Galperin, an associate professor of management, who helped Robbins write “Constructive Deviance: Striving Toward Organizational Change.” The two will be presenting their paper at the Orlando conference of the Academic and Business Research Institute in September.

In a presentation at the Academy of Management Conference in early August, Galperin argued that employees who fail to follow the organizational norms can be the roots of successful innovations and champions of change. Defined as voluntary behavior that violates organizational norms and can threaten the well-being of an organization, Galperin says that workplace deviance can be used for the good of the organization and that those engaging in the negative behavior may also be engaging in the positive.

Robbins took Galperin’s research and applied it to a healthcare setting. She has a part-time job at the Pasco Regional Medical Center as a receptionist and admitting clerk and found the environment perfect for testing her proposal: that emotional intelligence, empathy, trust and extroversion all lead to positive deviance by physicians in the healthcare environment.

“Some doctors really go out of their way for some patients, breaking the emotional distance that is recommended,” said Robbins, a management major. “I found that the doctors in our hospital that were favored and had the highest rating were those who break the norm because they make a connection with the patient, going the extra distance for them; however, the organization as a whole benefits.”

Opportunities such as this collaboration with Galperin are the benefit of small classes and a community environment, said Robbins, who transferred to UT last year.

“In bigger schools, you’re one of 400 or 500 in the class. You don’t get the opportunity to talk one-on-one with your professors,” Robbins said. “Here, the professors know your name.“