Organizational Citizenship Behavior

What is Organizational Citizenship Behavior?

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).

Organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) are voluntary, discretionary, and extra-role actions by employees that go beyond their formal job duties and contribute to the well-being of the organization. OCBs are not required by the job description or formal rules and regulations, but they are nonetheless beneficial to the organization.

When you engage in OCBs, it is often described as ‘going above and beyond the call of duty’.

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 descriptionOpens in new window, 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).

Key characteristics of organizational citizenship behaviors include:
  1. Voluntariness: OCBs are not part of an employee's formal job description or contractual obligations. Employees engage in these behaviors voluntarily, out of their own goodwill.
  2. Positive Impact: OCBs are intended to benefit the organization or its members. These behaviors contribute to the overall functioning and effectiveness of the workplace.
  3. Discretionary Nature: Employees have the discretion to choose whether or not to engage in OCBs. They are not mandated or explicitly rewarded for these behaviors.

Dimensions of Organizational Citizenship Behaviors

OCB is essentially a dimension of job performance Opens in new window, and is covered as a separate form of productive behaviorOpens in new window 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. However, contemporary researchers have simplified this list of OCBs into Seven dimensions:

  1. Altruism

    This is the willingness to help others without expecting anything in return. For example, an employee who helps a coworker with a difficult task is exhibiting altruism.

  2. Courtesy

    This is the practice of being polite and considerate of others. For example, an employee who is always willing to lend a helping hand or offer words of encouragement is exhibiting courtesy.

  3. Conscientiousness

    This is the attention to detail and commitment to doing things right. For example, an employee who always meets deadlines and goes above and beyond to complete tasks is exhibiting conscientiousness.

  4. Sportsmanship

    This is the ability to accept setbacks gracefully and without complaining. For example, an employee who is always willing to go the extra mile, even when things are tough, is exhibiting sportsmanship. Other sportsmanship behaviors include not complaining about the occasional inconveniences of the working environment, 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).

  5. Civic virtue

    This is the willingness to participate in activities that benefit the organization as a whole. For example, an employee who volunteers for a company-sponsored charity event is exhibiting civic virtue. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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. 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.

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).

Why Are Organizational Citizenship Behaviors Important?

OCBs are important because they can lead to a number of positive outcomes for organizations, including:

  1. Increased productivity: Employees who engage in OCBs are more likely to be productive and efficient.
  2. Improved employee morale: Employees who feel that their contributions are valued are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and have higher morale.
  3. Reduced turnover: Employees who are engaged in their work and feel valued by their organization are less likely to leave.
  4. Enhanced organizational reputation: Organizations that have a strong culture of OCBs are more likely to be seen as positive and desirable places to work.

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.

    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 Opens in new window, 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.

  4. 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).

Promoting Organizational Citizenship Behaviors

    There are a number of things that organizations can do to promote OCBs, including:

  1. Clearly defined expectations: Employees need to know what is expected of them in terms of OCBs. This can be done through training, performance evaluations, and other forms of communication.
  2. Recognition and rewards: Employees should be recognized and rewarded for their OCBs. This can be done through formal rewards programs, informal recognition, and simply taking the time to say thank you.
  3. A supportive work environment: Employees are more likely to engage in OCBs if they feel that their organization is a supportive and positive place to work. This means providing employees with the resources they need to do their jobs, offering opportunities for growth and development, and creating a culture of respect and appreciation.
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