Organizational Citizenship Behavior

Literature on Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCBs)

Discretionary behaviors and contributions in work settings that are not part of employees’ formal job descriptions (e.g., helping colleagues who have been absent, not complaining about trivial problems, and speaking favorably of the organization to outsiders), or behaviors for which employees are not formally rewarded; but are nonetheless helpful to the organization as a whole or to individual people at work, are referred to as organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs).

Oftentimes, engaging in OCBs is described as ‘going above and beyond the call of duty’ (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Paine, & Bachrach, 2000).

Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) has been formally defined by Organ (1988) as “individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and that in the aggregate promotes the effective functioning of the organization. By discretionary, we mean that the behavior is not an enforceable requirement of the role or the job description, that is, the clearly specifiable terms of the person’s employment contract with the organization; the behavior is rather a matter of personal choice, such that its omission is not generally understood as punishable” (p. 4).

Emerging studies have found three characteristics that were linked to OCB:

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Organ and his colleagues found that employees who were more satisfied with their jobs performed organizational citizenship behaviors with greater frequency. Such employees who display OCB can contribute to improving organizational efficiency and effectiveness. (Bateman and Organ 1983; Smith, Organ, and Near 1983).

Dimensions of Organizational Citizenship Behaviors

OCB is essentially a dimension of job performance, and is covered as a separate form of productive behavior because it has been studied separately from “in-role” performance.

Within the research on the OCB literature, over 30 potentially different forms of citizenship behavior have been identified as consistent with Organ’s (1988) definition of OCB. Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Paine, and Bachrach (2000) simplified this list of OCBs into seven dimensions:

Dimensions of OCBs
  • Helping
  • Loyalty
  • Individual Initiative
  • Self-Development
  • Sportsmanship
  • Organizational Compliance
  • Civic Virtue

A brief description of the dimensions and example items, follows.

  1. Helping Behavior

    Helping behavior, sometimes referred to as prosocial behavior, is defined as voluntarily assisting co-workers with work-related problems and acting to prevent problems on the job. Podsakoff, et al. (2000) include behaviors such as altruism, peacemaking, cheerleading, interpersonal helping, individual-directed OCBs, interpersonal facilitation, helping others, and courtesy.

    Examples of helping items include: orienting new colleagues, helping them “learn the ropes”, calling attention to errors, acting in a manner to improve organizational morale,Opens in new window and treating peers with courtesy.

  2. Sportsmanship

    Empirical research has rendered Sportsmanship to be distinct from other forms of OCB because it is typically exhibited by not engaging in certain forms of behaviors, such as complaining about problems or minor inconveniences.

    Sportsmanship behaviors include not complaining about the occasional inconveniences of working here, not gossiping, maintaining a positive attitude even when frustrated, a willingness to sacrifice personal interest for the good of the group, and not being personally offended when others do not accept one’s ideas. (Podsakoff, et al., 2000).


  3. Loyalty

    Organizational Loyalty includes patriotic actions, such as promoting the organization to outsiders, defending it against threats, and remaining dedicated even under adverse conditions (George & Brief, 1992; George & Jones, 1997; Graham, 1991).

    Examples of loyalty items are speaking well of the organization, identifying with the organization—acting as an organization person, describing this organization as caring for its employees, and staying with the organization during hard times.

  4. Organizational Compliance

    Organizational Compliance refers to behaviors exhibiting strict adherence to the rules and regulations of the organization, even when not being monitored. These behaviors reflect acceptance and internalization of the organization’s rules (Borman & Motowidlo, 1993; Graham, 1991; Smith, Organ & Near, 1983).

    Compliance examples include not wasting time at work, arriving at work punctually, obeying company rules even when one is not being monitored, and adherence to informal rules designed to maintain order.

  5. Individual Initiatives

    Individual Initiatives are considered citizenship behaviors only when they involve engaging in job-related behavior that is significantly beyond minimally required or expected levels of performance to such a degree that they appear voluntary. Creativity and innovation are included as individual initiatives (Moorman & Blackely, 1995; Podsakoff, et al., 2000).

    Example behaviors include making a conscious effort to be liked by coworkers, communicating with others in the workplace to improve performance, demonstrating creativity, and volunteering to take on extra responsibilities.

  6. Civic Virtue

    Civic Virtue is somewhat different from the others because the target is the organization, as shown by a willingness to take an active part in governance activities, keep its interests foremost, and monitor the environment for threats and opportunities (George & Brief, 1992; Organ, 1988; Podsakoff, et al., 2000).

    Example behaviors include conscientiously caring for organization property, expressing one’s view about organization strategy, acting ethically, and alerting managers about changes that may affect the organization.

  7. Self Development

    Self Development has been defined by George & Brief (1992) as voluntary actions taken to improve knowledge, skills, and abilities, and an essential dimension of citizenship. Although an apparent discretionary form of citizenship behavior, self-development has never received empirical verification as an OCB dimension.

    Examples of self development items are taking advantage of training courses, staying current in one’s field, expressing a desire to move up in the organization, and pursuing outside opportunities to improve job-related activities.

Podsakoff et al. (2000) argue that each of the seven different types of OCBs can be traced back to Katz’s (1964) dimensions of innovative and spontaneous behaviors resulting from one’s innate characteristics or characteristics of the job and the organization, which included:

Antecedents of Citizenship Behavior

Why do employees display OCB? There are actually three antecedents (factors) underlying the extant theory and research regarding the motivational bases for OCB.

  1. Affect

    Positive affect typically in the form of job satisfaction is the primary antecedent for which OCB is based. Organ (1990) argued that organizational practices that engender favorable attitudes incur a sense of obligation to recompense the organization in a manner befitting a social exchange relationship.

    Moreover, employees will reciprocate using OCBs, contributions that lie outside formal role requirements and reward structure and are therefore structurally similar to the social rewards afforded by a fair system (e.g., feelings of trust, support, and good faith). In addition, positive mood and helping behavior are actually mutually reinforcing because helping others usually makes people feel good.

  2. Fairness

    A second explanation for the antecedent of OCB has to do with cognitive evaluations of the fairness of employees’ treatment by an organization. This view is theoretically rooted in Equity TheoryOpens in new window (Adams, 1965), which states that employees evaluate their work situations by cognitively comparing their inputs to the organization with the outcomes they receive in return. If employees perceive that the organization is treating them fairly or justly, then they are likely to reciprocate the organization by engaging in OCB. It seems, however, that certain forms of fairness or justice predict OCB better than others.

    For example, Moorman (1991) found that the best predictor of OCB was interactional justice, or the manner in which supervisors treat employees as they carry out organizational policies and procedures. In contrast, other studies have found that procedural justice is a better predictor of OCB than is distributive justice (e.g., Konovsky & Pugh, 1990). Procedural justice refers to employees’ perceptions of the fairness of procedures used to make decisions such as pay raises; distributive justice refers to perceptions of fairness of the outcomes one receives as a result of those procedures.

  3. Dispositions

    A third explanation for OCB is that it is due to dispositions. According to this viewpoint, certain personality traits predispose individuals to engage in OCB. In other words, some people are naturally more helpful than others are. Compared to the first two antecedents for which OCB is based, the dispositional viewpoint has received much less attention in the OCB literature because proponents of this view have been vague as to the specific personality traits that should be related to OCB. This has been a criticism of dispositional explanations of other forms of employee attitudes and behavior (Davis-Blake & Pfeffer, 1989).

Other than affect, fairness, and dispositions, recent contributions to the literature suggest that OCB may be motivated by impression management concerns. According to this view, performing OCB can achieve a number of impression management objectives including being seen as likable, dedicated, and competent.

Consequently, some employees may perform citizenship behaviors in order to influence the image others have of them. Consistent with these ideas, empirical studies suggest that employees who are motivated to manage impressions perform OCBs with greater frequency (Schnake 1991).