Drawing from the conservation of resources framework and self-control principles, we proposed a moderated mediational model through which emotional exhaustion may be linked to counterproductive work behaviours (CWBs). Analyses conducted with 175 Midwestern government workers revealed that both depersonalization (i.e. detachment from one's work, customers or co-workers) and organizational disidentification (i.e. cognitive opposition to an organization) were viable predictors of deviancy. Further, depersonalization and disidentification mediated the relationship between emotional exhaustion and CWBs, although disidentification drove these findings. Lastly, trait self-control moderated most variations of this relationship, in that this mediational model only applied to individuals with low and moderate self-control but not high self-control. Consistent with the conservation of resources framework, this study suggests that in a state of depleted emotional resources, heightened depersonalization and disidentification together provide the necessary levels of psychological/emotional withdrawal and justification for CWBs to emerge. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.