How Organizational Citizenship Behavior Can Be Good for You

Organizational citizenship behavior means going the extra mile at work. Basically, it means doing anything that is not in your formal job description. We typically think of organizational citizenship behavior (or OCB) as something we do to help benefit our organization or the people we work with. In that sense, we might think of OCB as selfless giving that is actually to our own detriment. It makes sense, right? We only have a limited amount of time and resources during the day. If we do more than we need to do, we run the risk of burnout, fatigue, and stress. This is also supported by past research. However, new research shows that OCB can actually provide some advantages for the people performing it.

ADVANTAGES OF ORGANIZATIONAL CITIZENSHIP BEHAVIOR

Researchers conducted a multi-part study over the course of a whole work week. They found that people who engaged in more OCB during the day had higher levels of work meaningfulness at the end of the day. Work meaningfulness is the extent to which employees feel that their job is useful or significant. The authors posited that engaging in OCB allows employees to feel more control over their activities, as well as feel good about helping others. Both of these components could lead people to experience work meaningfulness.

The researchers also found that employees who experience work meaningfulness at the end of the day also experienced more vigor, which basically means feeling more energized. Past research has shown that when employees cannot find meaningfulness in their work, negative outcomes such as burnout can occur. To put it all together, the authors say that not only is performing OCB associated with work meaningfulness, but that same increase in meaningfulness can explain why OCB ends up associated with increased vigor.

The authors also found that the association between more OCB and more work meaningfulness is even stronger when something called role ambiguity occurs. Role ambiguity is when employees are unsure about what they are supposed to do at work or what the expectations are. In this situation, employees may be even more interested in searching for meaning in their jobs, and performing OCB may help provide this meaning. Finally, the authors found that the association between more OCB and more work meaningfulness was stronger for those employees with higher job performance on the required parts of the job.

ORGANIZATIONAL IMPLICATIONS

This study is important because it helps us reexamine organizational citizenship behavior. While tempting to think of OCB as something only beneficial to the organization, this study shows that there are benefits to the person performing the OCB as well.

Without research like this, we might be tempted to hold back on OCB and instead stick to our narrowly-defined job description. We might reason that if there is only so much we can do, we probably should save our efforts for the things we have to do anyway. Yet, this reasoning doesn’t give us the whole picture. This research shows us that engaging in OCB can help enrich our work lives. Employees can feel confident when performing OCB, and similarly, organizations can feel confident when encouraging their employees to perform them as well.

Lam, C. F., Wan, W. H., & Roussin, C. J. (2016). Going the extra mile and feeling energized: An enrichment perspective of organizational citizenship behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(3), 379-391.

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