Beyond Post-Downsizing Organisational Injustice and Counterproductive Work Behaviours: Antecedents and Consequences of Learnt Helplessness

  •  Susan Chen    
  •  Reidar Mykletun    


The overall objective of this study was to explore perceived organisational injustice through the lens of learnt helplessness in a Norwegian post-merger case study focusing on an ageing knowledge-based workforce. The case describes a lucrative large-scale early retirement organisational downsizing deployed only in the headquarters, located in Norway, but not offered across country subsidiaries. This qualitative research collected data from 28 semi-structured face-to-face interviews and other observations.

This study was based on the assumption that organisational injustice would prevail with observed counter-productive workplace behaviours (CWBs). Three research questions were formulated: 1) Does perceived organisational injustice always lead to the expected CWB? 2) To what degree does learnt helplessness function as a buffer against the expected CWB resulting from perceived organisational injustice? 3) What are the antecedents and consequences of learnt helplessness?

A key contribution of this study is to provide a unique case where injustice does not always lead to the predicted negative organisational outcomes of CWBs under the conditions of learnt helplessness. The case illustrates that organisational culture is the antecedent of learnt helplessness, which in turn, has buffering effects against the predicted CWBs.


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