Toward the construct definition of positive deviance

By: Gretchen M. Spreitzer, Scott Sonenshein

Spreitzer, G.M., & Sonenshein, S. (2004). Toward the construct definition of positive deviance. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(6), 828-847.


In this article, the authors develop a definition of positive deviance, a foundational construct in positive organizational scholarship. They offer a normative definition of positive deviance: intentional behaviors that depart from the norms of a referent group in honorable ways. The authors contrast this normative perspective on deviance with statistical, supraconformity, and reactive perspectives on deviance. They also develop research propositions that differentiate positive deviance from related prosocial types of behaviors, including organizational citizenship, whistle-blowing, corporate social responsibility, and creativity/innovation. Finally, the authors offer some initial ideas on how to operationalize positive deviance.