Hu Biyun: Connotation and influencing factors of employee time theft


  Employee time theft refers to employees intentionally falsely reporting or overstating their work hours, or engaging in activities unrelated to work during work hours but receiving labor remuneration paid by the company during that period. The well-known term 'paid fishing' is an important manifestation of time theft. Although time theft is common in enterprises, has high costs, and can bring a series of negative impacts, the manifestations and influencing factors of time theft have not yet received sufficient attention from scholars. Therefore, various measures taken by enterprises to address employee time theft are rarely effective.

   In order to better understand and manage the issue of employee time theft, our assistant professor Hu Biyun and collaborators first scientifically and rigorously developed and validated the structural dimensions and measurement tools of employee time theft. The study found that employee time theft behavior can be divided into five categories: unauthorized rest (such as frequent breaks during work hours for tea or smoking), falsified work hours (such as intentionally exaggerating one's work hours to earn more compensation), manipulating work speed (such as deliberately slowing down work speed to extend work hours) Excessive socializing (such as chatting with colleagues during work hours) and spending time on non work tasks (such as browsing Weibo or WeChat social media during work hours) (Harold, Hu,&Koopman, 2021).

  On this basis, Assistant Professor Hu Biyun and collaborators further explored the reasons why employees engage in time theft and which types of employees are most likely to engage in time theft (Hu, Harold, Kim, 2022). Through two longitudinal questionnaire surveys, this study found that laissez faire leadership can indirectly influence employees' time theft behavior by influencing their understanding of time theft norms within the organization. Simply put, when leaders let their subordinates go and do not interfere with their behavior, employees will believe that time theft is allowed and in line with organizational norms in the enterprise, thereby increasing the probability and frequency of employees engaging in time theft. In addition, when employees' sense of responsibility is not high, laissez faire leadership has a stronger impact on employees' time theft.

  Exploring the structural dimensions, measurement methods, and influencing factors of time theft is of great value to both businesses and society. In terms of theory, the research results have deepened scholars and organizational managers' understanding of the connotation, influencing factors, and mechanisms of employee time theft; In practice, the research findings provide clearer guidance for organizational managers to diagnose and solve employee time theft more accurately.

Harold, C. M., Hu, B., & Koopman, J. (2021). Employee time theft: Conceptualization, measure development, and validation. Personnel Psychology. Advance online publication.

Hu, B., Harold, C. M., & Kim, D. (2022). Stealing Time on the Company’s Dime: Examining the Indirect Effect of Laissez-Faire Leadership on Employee Time Theft. Journal of Business Ethics. Advance online publication.

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