Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) is an action taken by an individual that is discretionary and not formally recognized or rewarded by an organization but in total promotes the organization’s effective functioning. Simply put, it is behavior that goes above and beyond the requirements of the job yet is not necessarily compensated by the traditional organizational reward system. Individual instances of OCB do not, in themselves, enhance effectiveness, but aggregated over time and across persons, citizenship behaviors increase organizational effectiveness and efficiency. Examples of OCBs include helping a coworker with a work-related problem and promoting a positive work environment. Related concepts include extra-role behavior, prosocial organizational behavior, organization spontaneity, and contextual performance.
A number of reasons have been offered to support the underlying assumption that citizenship behaviors promote organizational effectiveness. OCB is believed to serve as an effective means of coordinating activities between team members and across work groups, increase coworker and managerial productivity, and enhance stability of organizational performance. Moreover, citizenship behaviors have implications for individual careers, as they have been found to have a positive influence on managers’ evaluations of performance. Research suggests that OCBs influence performance evaluations over and above objective measures. Supervisors perceive citizenship behaviors as contributing to the value of an employee’s performance and consider them when making reward allocation decisions. In addition, citizenship behaviors are positively related to employee retention.
Organizational citizenship behavior was originally conceptualized as an alternative explanation for the satisfaction-causes-performance hypothesis. It was developed in response to studies that found only modest relationships between employee attitudes and traditional measures of work performance. Research indicates that employee attitudes, such as job satisfaction, are expressed through extra-role behaviors for which employees have volition and discretion. In essence, employees respond to supportive treatment from their organizations with organizational citizenship behaviors.
Theorists have relied primarily on the social exchange framework to support the proposition that employee attitudes influence organizational citizenship behavior. Social exchange theory suggests that people seek to reciprocate those who benefit them. Therefore, to the extent that job satisfaction results from organizational efforts, employees will respond by performing citizenship behaviors. Although less applied, researchers also note a second justification. According to the social psychology literature, prosocial behaviors are likely to be performed by individuals experiencing a positive mood state. Therefore, to the extent that job satisfaction results in a positive mood state, satisfied employees are likely to display organizational citizenship behaviors.
Organizational citizenship behavior research has considered both overall measures of the construct and various dimensions of it. Although there has been a general lack of consensus about the dimensionality, the five most commonly examined dimensions are altruism, conscientiousness, sportsmanship, courtesy, and civic virtue. Altruism consists of discretionary behaviors that aim at helping certain people in an organization with a relevant task or problem. An example of altruistic behavior includes employees helping coworkers finish an important project, even though the helpers are not responsible for its completion. Conscientiousness, which was originally termed general compliance, involves employees going beyond the minimum requirements of the job. For example, an employee who forgoes a vacation day to work on a project that would not otherwise meet the completion deadline would be displaying conscientiousness. Sportsmanship refers to one’s willingness to tolerate personal inconveniences and impositions without protest or fuss, thus conserving energy for job tasks. Courtesy includes proactive gestures such as consulting with others before taking action and passing along information. Civic virtue refers to the involvement that an employee shows in the political life of the organization such as attending meetings and discussing organizational issues on personal time.
Since its conception, studies have gone beyond the examination of satisfaction to identify other predictors of organizational citizenship behavior. A number of attitudinal, dispositional, and individual difference measures have been examined. Although job satisfaction has been the most robust correlate, additional attitudinal predictors include perceptions of fairness, perceptions of leader support, and organizational commitment. In addition, various task (e.g., task feedback, intrinsically satisfying tasks) and leadership behaviors (e.g., contingent reward behavior, supportive leader behavior) have been consistently linked to OCB.
The limited research examining consequences of OCB have focused on organizational as well as individual outcomes. As noted previously, this research has found that citizenship behaviors have a positive impact on several important personnel decisions made by managers. In particular, citizenship behaviors have shown an influence on performance evaluations and managers’ reward allocation decisions (e.g., salary, reward, and promotion recommendations). In addition, the limited amount of research examining organizational outcomes has shown strong support that citizenship behaviors increase work group and business unit performance.
Due to the implications for both organizations and individuals, organizational citizenship behavior has received a great deal of research attention in the last 20 years. Research continues to be refined in terms of the factors that influence performance of such behaviors and the ensuing outcomes. Recently, research has been refined to differentiate between targets of organizational citizenship behaviors. This research has examined those behaviors intended to benefit the organization as well as those that are intended to benefit specific individuals within the organization, such as coworkers.
- LePine, J. A. and Johnson, D. E. 2002. “The Nature and Dimensionality of Organizational Citizenship Behavior: A Critical Review and Meta-analysis.” Journal of Applied Psychology 87:52-65.
- Organ, D. W. 1988. Organizational Citizenship Behavior: The Good Soldier Syndrome. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
- Organ, D. W. and Ryan, K. 1995. “A Meta-analytic Review of Attitudinal and Dispositional Predictors of Organizational Citizenship Behavior.” Personnel Psychology 48:775-802.
- Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, J. B. P. and Bachrach, D. G. 2000. “Organizational Citizenship Behaviors: A Critical Review of the Theoretical and Empirical Literature and Suggestions for Future Research.” Journal of Management 26:513-563.
- Smith, A. C., Organ, D. W. and Near, J. P. 1983. “Organizational Citizenship Behavior: Its Nature and Antecedents.” Journal of Applied Psychology 68:653-663.