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What Is Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Why Does It Matter?

Organizational Citizenship Behavior Definition and examples. Why is it important to a diverse workplace?

Rules and bylaws of companies usually regulate work behaviour. Rules and regulations ensure that everything is in place, in proper order and that everyone toes the lines concerning company policies and procedures. It ensures that all work towards the company’s good the workers stand for everything that a diverse company stood for.

Rules and regulations also ensure that everyone will exhibit proper ethical conduct and behavior towards each other. It allows for harmony in the workplace, reduces the possibility of conflict and misunderstanding, and promotes goodwill. Boundaries and hierarchy are also maintained, ensuring professionalism in the workplace.

But proper ethical behavior, aside from those mandated by the company, is also expected among workers and employees. There are things that, though not dictated, are still expected and will work wonders towards promoting goodwill and harmony in the workplace. It creates an atmosphere of trust within the company. It has been a good human capital topic in Germany and the United States recently.

Things that are not mandated or required, not included in all the rules, regulations, and bylaws, and yet expected of everyone as an employee, and expected to contribute to a friendly, inclusive environment, and the overall good of the company is known as “organizational citizenship behavior.” What is it exactly, and how does it help a company?


Defining organizational citizenship behavior

The term organizational citizenship behavior refers to all those conduct, behavior, and attitudes of employees, which, though not part of the company’s official rules or mandated by the company, are expected of everyone. They are expected because they must be part of an employee’s overall ethical conduct, and they contribute to the ambiance of goodwill.

They are not part of the formal rewarding process of the organization. No benefit or compensation will be given by having those behavior, attitudes, or doing those tasks. No formal incentives await those who exhibit those traits and attitudes.

One can even claim that those traits, attitudes, and behavior are not that critical, for they are never established through formal rules, guidelines and regulations. There is no explicit mention in an employee’s handbook, and one is not strictly dutybound to follow those things usually defined as OCB.

However, those principles are genuinely important. They may not be cast in stone, but they are time-honored principles of ethical behavior and good conduct. They establish a good working environment and help promote a sense of camaraderie, teamwork, unity among workers and in the company.

They may not be rewarded financially or given incentives by doing those things, but those activities are rewarding in themselves. Having goodwill and camaraderie among employees promotes trust and confidence among each other. If they go along well, chances are there would be greater productivity in the workplace.

In this sense, organization citizenship behaviour is an essential adjunct to rules and regulations, employees’ handbooks, and company policies towards employees and workers. All employees must adhere to every ethical standard and behavior, but not covered by those rules and regulations are implied in organizational citizenship behavior.


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One can see OCB then as a set of unwritten rules, code of conduct, assumptions, or even ideals, which are never put explicitly but still vital. Important because they have a bearing on workers’ relationship with each other and may help build morale if observed, or destroy it and poison the working atmosphere if not adhered, followed to, or violated. Also worth noting that OCB helps to reduce disparity in the workplace.

Types and examples of organizational citizenship behavior

Aside from the usual rules and regulations stated in the employees’ handbook and rules of proper ethical conduct and behavior stated by the company, some behavior not explicitly stated are nevertheless expected by the company among their employees. Those behavior and attitudes are the common types of OCB.

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Among these are the following:

Courtesy

Being polite and courteous is the most basic of all these types of OCB. It involves the usual, customary greetings to superiors and fellow employees, treating others with respect, and deferring to superiors, fellow employees, and others when needed. To be courteous is to be considerate to the feelings of others too.

 It involves knowing the boundaries too when to offer help, ask for help, or defer. It recognizes the personal and professional boundaries one has and respects those boundaries. Politeness and decency dictate that one must never cross some boundaries, for it may get too personal, or one may indeed go overboard.

Courtesy promotes warmth and friendship in the workplace. It helps maintain that basic, proper decorum underlined in the rules and regulations of the company. It is not too much to say that even in the absence of an employee’s handbook, everyone needs to be polite and courteous towards one another.

Altruism

Workers helping each other without expecting anything in return, whether rewards or benefits, can go a long way. The sense of altruism can instill in the employees’ sense of comradeship and a sense of belongingness. Altruism helps build confidence and trust among each other and helps promote a friendly environment through random acts of kindness.

It could be minor, random things, like opening the door for someone, helping your co-workers fix things, helping someone carry their belongings. Another example would be lending your expertise to a fellow employee, helping them through their difficult task, or volunteering your services, especially when others cannot do it, and you are in the best position to do so.

Little things? Yes, but they do help a lot in building confidence and having trust among fellow workers. Altruism creates a friendly ambiance, cheerful atmosphere and promotes inclusivity and acceptance among employees. Employees will quickly warm up to each other, making teamwork and cooperation vital in a company easier.

Sportsmanship

But even with warmth, friendship, camaraderie, teamwork, and an inclusive working environment, things could go testy. A misunderstanding, an explosive meeting, or other annoyance and hassles are ever-present, for employees are also humans. And one way or another, they may err and have problems relating to each other.

One must learn how to handle those issues and things. Specifically, one must be a true professional when dealing with work-related problems and issues. One must realize that whatever happens in ta meeting is just part of the desire of everyone to improve the company. There is no need to be negatively affected by it.

One, for instance, maybe reprimanded. It happens all the time. People do get their fair share of blame and criticisms; it happens in all companies. One must be an actual sport and not be offended, especially if the criticism was done in a most effective, professional manner. People make mistakes, and it is only proper that mistakes be corrected.

The attitude of sportsmanship brings out the best in employees. It makes them truly professional and makes them adhere to the highest standard of professional conduct. Part of being a sport is to respond positively to challenges brought about by the situation. Positively responding to criticisms means doing what is expected of you, correcting your mistakes, and mending your ways.

Conscientiousness

Any worker must meet certain expectations and requirements, but it would be best to exceed those expectations. If an employee is allowed some absences in a year, why take advantage of it? Why not show the company that you can show at work every day and on time for the whole year?

Or you may have committed a mistake in your work or task, and your boss gives you a severe reprimand, which might lead to others breaking down, but instead, you showed calm, serenity, and composure. You show your superior that you can more than handle criticism, and take it professionally, and at the same time promises to do your best next time around.

Being conscientious, diligent, careful, and having self-restraint and discipline more than what the work demands will instill and strengthen the virtues of professionalism in a company. It also minimizes errors. Giving attention to details, doing little things that may positively and contribute to the company’s overall welfare will beget other virtues, like sportsmanship.

One can never truly go wrong with being conscientious. There will be no lost ground in terms of targets and achievements if practiced from top to bottom. Only good rewards through productivity await a company with conscientious employees. It minimizes breakdowns and allows others to cover for the shortcoming of others, especially unwitting ones.

Practicing Civic Virtues

An employee still carries the badge of his company even when he is outside or not at work. The person serves as an extension of the company, whether one likes it or not. As such, actions of employees outside may reflect negatively or positively on the company, affecting the image of a company overall.

One must, therefore, be a paragon of virtues and everything the company stands for, even as one is outside the premises of the workplace. If a person acts in accordance with the company’s values, society and people will favourably view the company. The company will be highly regarded in the community.

Employees from prestigious companies are highly regarded because they epitomize what the company is all about. It is only proper then that the employees must return the favor, act accordingly, and exhibit all those civic virtues expected from working in that company.

Pros of organizational citizenship behavior

The perks and benefits of organizational citizenship behavior are undeniable. These are the following:


A friendly, inclusive working environment

A workplace that practices OCB will have a more convivial atmosphere. Employees having confidence with each other, workers will be more relaxed talking and working with each other. They will not be hesitant to consult each other or bring issues up that need to be resolved and given solutions.

They know that they have each other’s back and that they can rely on each other to push the company upward.

More professionalism

Even as they are confident of each other, employees will have more prudence as they deal with their fellows and superiors. They know that they must still exercise professionalism in work and their relations with their co-employees. Since they have confidence, one will not be offended by criticism.

Since they care for each other, it pays for them to be self-disciplined and conscientious. Employees know that their errors in work or judgment might adversely affect others. So they will be careful and diligent as much as possible. It will minimize conflicts and breakdowns in productivity, as attention to detail makes employees more sensitive to possible shortcomings.

High morale

A friendly working environment and a high level of professionalism easily translate into high morale for the workforce. Workers love going to work when nothing is bothering them. Simply put, people like to work when they are friends with their fellows and know fully well that those people have complete confidence in him.

They are also willing to work with enthusiasm, knowing that their fellow employees exhibit true professionalism. It will make the person more driven, as the professionalism of others will inspire him too.

Professionalism is contagious, and it will make him share the values and the desire to be more productive and of great help to the company.

Greater productivity

Professionalism and high morale ultimately lead to greater productivity, for it means fewer absences and tardiness and more effort for the company. Losses will be minimized owing to the efficiency brought about by practicing OCB.

The whole atmosphere is conducive to creativity, minimizing conflicts, and quick, effective conflict resolution. It means hours saved, which could be available for working, planning, and strategizing to improve the company further.

Drawbacks of organizational citizenship behavior

Though there are enormous benefits, some found some drawbacks in putting in practicing OCB. Goodwill, excellent behavior, helpfulness is underappreciated, if not noticed at all. The most common drawback is the lack of reciprocity in doing those things. It leads some to feel dejected, wondering if it is worth trying it in the first place.

Some are also less motivated to practice it, for aside from the reason mentioned above, these practices are not subject to incentives. No monetary rewards or benefits would be given to the practitioners of OCB. Because of this, people think that it is not even worth trying at all. They think it is better to stick with all those company measures, rules and regulations.

Some who practiced it had expectations too, which were unrealized. It is not uncommon for people to expect some benefits, recognition, and promotion, for instance, which, by its very nature, would not happen, for organizational citizenship behavior is not a mechanism for promotion, recognition, or giving awards. Some became disappointed.

Organizational Citizenship Behavior: Comparing The Public and Private Sector

OCB has been in place in most numerous sectors and institutions, both public and private. Despite some drawbacks and misgivings, most policymakers find it a beneficial tool in further promoting the efficiency of the workers and employees and creating a friendly atmosphere that generates creativity and productivity.

There are some differences, however, regarding how it is implemented and practiced. Some studies, for example, indicate that organizational citizenship behavior is more prominent in the public sector than in private corporations and companies. Why is the public sector more receptive to it than the private ones?

The general nature of public institutions in part played a role in this phenomenon. As we all know, the “public” serves the greater good. Those who work in the public sector are not under the impression that they have to gain financially or career-wise, not that they would not care for incentives, but that is not the primary consideration.

The idea is to work for the greater good, and this philosophy underlies even employees’ work ethic. Workers in the public sector are more likely to put the public’s interest above their interests. It is easy to sell them the idea of organizational citizenship behavior. It is assumed, after all, that the “public” is their company.

Not that the workers from the private sector will not do so. The fact that there are those implementing OCB in private companies attests to this fact. But workers in this sector do have different motivations. For most of them, adherence to the company goals and ideals should already consist of the ultimate.

So in implementing OCB, the appreciation of public and private workers is expected to be different and maybe the assessment of both sectors. It is no wonder that the usual drawbacks that plagued companies with organizational citizenship behavior never troubled the public sector that much.

Still, you cannot lose with organizational citizenship behavior. A doctrine or set of practices that promise to improve efficiency in employees’ relations and working environment is worth the risk at no cost at all. In the long run, employees and companies stand to benefit from it.

Organizational Citizenship Behavior

JK

Organizational Citizenship Behavior definition
Organizational Citizenship Behavior examples
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References

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0734371X18800372

https://eom.org

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About the author

BC

Brian is the Managing Diversity & Inclusion Lead (Chief Diversity Officer) at Diversity.Social. Brian has years of experience working at Fortune 500 companies in diverse environments and building diverse teams in Asian, Europe, America, and Canada.

Brian believes that building diverse and inclusive working environments isn't a luxury for resourceful organizations only, it should be leveraged and start from the grassroots.

Brian is a serial entrepreneur and has founded high technology ventures throughout his career. Diversity Leadership Directory