A preliminary study exploring moderating effects of role stressors on the relationship between Big Five personality traits and workplace cyberloafing

Lebena Varghese, Larissa K. Barber


Cyberloafing—a type of counterproductive behavior—occurs when employees use the internet for personal use while at work. Past research shows that work role stressors (i.e., role conflict, role ambiguity, and role overload) and Big Five personality traits (i.e., neuroticism, conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness) predict cyberloafing, but research has yet to explore interactions among these factors. The current study aimed to address this gap by examining whether work role stressors strengthen the relationship between personality and cyberloafing based on the Personal Resource Allocation (PRA) framework. In an online survey of employees from diverse occupations (N = 343), we replicated past work showing relationships among personality traits and cyberloafing. However, role conflict was the only stressor that predicted cyberloafing. Moderated multiple regression analyses suggested only three statistically robust findings in the expected direction: role conflict strengthening the positive association between neuroticism and cyberloafing, role conflict strengthening the negative association between agreeableness and cyberloafing, and role overload strengthening the negative association between conscientiousness and cyberloafing. Overall, this study implies mixed and somewhat weak support for PRA framework predictions, including a lack of consistency in a specific role stressor enhancing personality-cyberloafing relationships. Practical implications for personnel selection and employee training/development are also discussed.

Bibliographic citation

Varghese, L., & Barber, L. K. (2017). A preliminary study exploring moderating effects of role stressors on the relationship between Big Five personality traits and workplace cyberloafing. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 11(4), article 4. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5817/CP2017-4-4


Cyberloafing; work role stressors; personality traits; counterproductive work behavior

Full Text:



Show references Hide references

Andreassen, C., Torsheim, T., & Pallesen, S. (2014). Predictors of use of social network sites at work - a specific type of cyberloafing. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19, 906-921. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12085

Arnold, T., Flaherty, K., Voss, K., & Mowen, J. (2009). Role stressors and retail performance: The role of perceived competitive climate. Journal of Retailing, 85, 194-205. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jretai.2009.02.002

Ashton, M. (1998). Personality and job performance: The importance of narrow traits. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 19, 289-303. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-1379(199805)19:3<289::AID-JOB841>3.0.CO;2-C

Barrick, M., Stewart, G., & Piotrowski, M. (2002). Personality and job performance: Test of the mediating effects of motivation among sales representatives. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 43-51. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.87.1.43

Bowling, N., & Eschleman, K. (2010). Employee personality as a moderator of the relationships between work stressors and counterproductive work behavior. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 15, 91-103. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0017326

Conlin, M. (2000). Workers, surf at your own risk. Businessweek.com. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/2000/00_24/b3685257.htm

Connor-Smith, J., & Flachsbart, C. (2007). Relations between personality and coping: A meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 1080-1107. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.93.6.1080

Donnellan, M., & Lucas, R. (2008). Age differences in the Big Five across the life span: Evidence from two national samples. Psychology and Aging, 23, 558-566. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0012897

Donnellan, M., Oswald, F., Baird, B., & Lucas, R. (2006). The mini-IPIP scales: Tiny-yet-effective measures of the Big Five factors of personality. Psychological Assessment, 18, 192-203. https://doi.org/10.1037/1040-3590.18.2.192

Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. (1988). Coping as a mediator of emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 466. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.54.3.466

Fox, S., Spector, P., Goh, A., & Bruursema, K. (2007). Does your coworker know what you're doing? Convergence of self- and peer-reports of counterproductive work behavior. International Journal of Stress Management, 14, 41-60. https://doi.org/10.1037/1072-5245.14.1.41

Fox, S., Spector, P. E., & Miles, D. (2001). Counterproductive work behavior (CWB) in response to job stressors and organizational justice: Some mediator and moderator tests for autonomy and emotions. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 59, 291-309. https://doi.org/10.1006/jvbe.2001.1803

Grawitch, M. J., Barber, L. K., & Justice, L. (2010). Rethinking the work–life interface: It's not about balance, it's about resource allocation. Applied Psychology: Health and WellBeing, 2, 127-159. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2009.01023.x

Henle, C., & Blanchard, A. (2008). The interaction of work stressors and organizational sanctions on cyberloafing. Journal of Managerial Issues, 20, 383-400.

Hobfoll, S. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44, 513-524. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.44.3.513

Jackson, S. E. (1983). Participation in decision making as a strategy for reducing job-related strain. Journal of Applied Psychology, 68, 3-19. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.68.1.3

Jia, H., Jia, R., & Karau, S. (2013). Cyberloafing and personality: The impact of the big five traits and workplace situational factors. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 20, 358-365. https://doi.org/10.1177/1548051813488208

Johansson, A., & Gotestam, K. (2004). Internet addiction: Characteristics of a questionnaire and prevalence in Norwegian youth (12-18 years). Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 45, 223-229. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9450.2004.00398.x

John, O., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The Big Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research, 2, 102-138.

Kahn, R., Wolfe, D., Quinn, R., Snoek, J., & Rosenthal, R. (1964). Organizational stress: Studies in role conflict and ambiguity. New York, NY: John Wiley.

Koelega, H. S.(1992). Extraversion and vigilance performance: 30 years of inconsistencies. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 239–258. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.112.2.239

Kossek, E. E., Hammer, L. B., Kelly, E. L., & Moen, P. (2014). Designing work, family & health organizational change initiatives. Organizational Dynamics, 43, 53-63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2013.10.007

Krischer, M., Penney, L., & Hunter, E. (2010). Can counterproductive work behaviors be productive? CWB as emotion-focused coping. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 15, 154-166. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018349

Kraut, R., Olson, J., Banaji, M., Bruckman, A., Cohen, J., & Couper, M. (2004). Psychological research online: Report of Board of Scientific Affairs’ Advisory Group on the Conduct of Research on the Internet. The American Psychologist, 59, 105–117. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066x.59.2.105

Landers, N. R., Behrend, S. T. (2015). An inconvenient truth: Arbitrary distinctions between organizational, Mechanical Turk, and other convenience samples. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 8, 142-164.

Lim, V. (2002). The IT way of loafing on the job: Cyberloafing, neutralizing and organizational justice. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23, 675-694. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.161

Lim, V. K., & Chen, D. J. (2012). Cyberloafing at the workplace: gain or drain on work?. Behaviour & Information Technology, 31, 343-353. https://doi.org/10.1080/01449290903353054

Marks, M. L., & Mirvis, P. H. (1992). Rebuilding after the merger: Dealing with “survivor sickness”. Organizational dynamics, 21(2), 18-32. https://doi.org/10.1016/0090-2616(92)90061-q

Matthews, G. (2008). Personality and information processing: A cognitive-adaptive theory. In G. J. Boyle, G. Matthews & D. H. Saklofske (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of personality theory andassessment. Volume 1: Personality theories and models (pp 56-79). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Matthews, G., & Campbell, S. E. (2009). Sustained performance under overload: Personality and individual differences in stress and coping. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 10, 417-442. https://doi.org/10.1080/14639220903106395

Minton, E., Gurel-Atay, E., Kahle, L., & Ring, K. (2013). Comparing data collection alternatives: Amazon Mturk, college students, and secondary data analysis. AMA Winter Educators' Conference Proceedings, 24, 36-37.

Mount, M., Ilies, R., & Johnson, E. (2006). Relationship of personality traits and counterproductive work behaviors: The mediating effects of job satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 59, 591–622. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2006.00048.x

O’Neill, T., Hambley, L., & Bercovich, A. (2014). Prediction of cyberslacking when employees are working away from the office. Computers in Human Behavior, 34, 291-298. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.02.015

O’Neill, T. A., Hambley, L. A., & Chatellier, G. S. (2014). Cyberslacking, engagement, and personality in distributed work environments. Computers in Human Behavior, 40, 152-160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.08.005

Pee, L., Woon, I., & Kankanhalli, A. (2008). Explaining non-work-related computing in the workplace: A comparison of alternative models. Information & Management, 45, 120-130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.im.2008.01.004

Peters, C., & Malesky, L., Jr. (2008). Problematic usage among highly-engaged players of massively multiplayer online role playing games. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 11, 481-484. https://doi.org/10.1089/cpb.2007.0140

Peterson, M. F., Smith, P. B., Akande, A., Ayestaran, S., Bochner, S., Callan, V., ... & Viedge, C. (1995). Role conflict, ambiguity, and overload: A 21-nation study. Academy of Management Journal, 38, 429-452. https://doi.org/10.2307/256687

Preacher, K., Rucker, D., & Hayes, A. (2007). Addressing moderated mediation hypotheses: Theory, methods, and prescriptions. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 42, 185-227. https://doi.org/10.1080/00273170701341316

Rizzo, J., House, R., & Lirtzman, S. (1970). Role conflict and ambiguity in complex organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 15, 150-163. https://doi.org/10.2307/2391486

Runing, S., Hunik, S., & Cahyadin, M. (2012). The moderate effect of commitment to supervisor and internet expertise on work stressor and employee cyberloafing: The study on employee of local government of Surakarta. Journal of Indonesian Economy & Business, 27, 271-284.

Seo, M., & Hill, N. (2005). Understanding the human side of merger and acquisition: An integrative framework. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41, 422-443. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021886305281902

Siegrist, J., & Marmot, M. (2004). Health inequalities and the psychosocial environment – two scientific challenges. Social Science and Medicine, 58, 1463–1473. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0277-9536(03)00349-6

Steffy, B., & Jones, J. (1990). Differences between full-time and part-time employees in perceived role strain and work satisfaction. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 11, 321-329. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.4030110407

Teo, T., & Lim, V. (1998). Usage and perceptions of the Internet: What has age got to do with it?. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 1, 371-381. https://doi.org/10.1089/cpb.1998.1.371

Tett, R., & Burnett, D. (2003). A personality trait-based interactionist model of job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 500-517. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.88.3.500

Thoresen, C., Bradley, J., Bliese, P., & Thoresen, J. (2004). The Big Five personality traits and individual job performance growth trajectories in maintenance and transitional job stages. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 835-853. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.89.5.835

Ugrin, J., & Pearson, J. M. (2013). The effects of sanctions and stigmas on cyberloafing. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 812-820. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.005