An eye for an eye? A meta-analysis of negative reciprocity in organizations

Lindsey M. Greco, Jennifer A. Whitson, Ernest H. O'Boyle, Cynthia S. Wang, Joongseo Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Most models of negative workplace behaviors (NWB) are individual in nature, focusing on individual attitudes (e.g., satisfaction) and general workplace perceptions (e.g., procedural justice) that motivate NWB. Less commonly considered are explorations of relationally based negative workplace behaviors- how NWB from Party A is related to reciprocation of NWB from Party B. Based on 2 competing conceptualizations in the literature, that behavior is reciprocated "in-kind" in an eye for an eye exchange or that behavior tends to escalate or spiral over time, we develop a framework for negative reciprocity that considers NWB in terms of severity, activity, and target. This framework addresses (a) whether Party A's NWB is associated with behavior of a similar or greater level (i.e., activity and severity) from Party B; and (b) whether Party B's reciprocating behavior is directed back at Party A (i.e., direct) or transferred onto others (i.e., displaced). We meta-analytically test these relationships with 246 independent samples (N = 96,930) and find strongest support for relationships indicating that NWB from Party A is largely returned in-kind, followed closely by relationships indicative of escalation. We also found that as the frequency of Party A's NWB increases, so too does the frequency of reciprocity behavior of equal levels. Surprisingly, differences related to the target of the behavior as well as differences based on whether the data were cross-sectional or longitudinal were generally negligible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1117-1143
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology


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