When Helping Hurts: The Dark Side of Organizational Citizenship Behaviors

Topic(s): citizenship behavior
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior 
Article: Citizenship under pressure: What’s a good soldier to do?
Authors: M.C. Bolino, W.H. Turnley, J.B. Gilstrap, M.M. Sauzo
Reviewed by: Sarah Teague

Organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) are defined as voluntary behaviors that facilitate organizational functioning but are not formally rewarded by the organization. The presence of these behaviors has consistently been shown to benefit both individual outcomes and organizational outcomes. In recent years, however, the accuracy of this definition has come into question as the degree to which employees engage in OCBs may actually be impacting the way they are evaluated by the organization. In the midst of the field’s infatuation with the impact of good deeds, the potentially dark side of OCBs has been largely neglected – a state of affairs that researchers (Bolino et al., 2010) intend to correct.


The researchers suggest that increased expectations for employee involvement with the organization outside of work, along with the impact it may have on performance evaluations, has led to what they call “citizenship pressure.” Results show that indeed, citizenship pressure was related to increased performance of OCBs. However, results also demonstrate a relationship between citizenship pressure and negative outcomes. Specifically, people who reported more citizenship pressure were more likely to report work-family conflict, work-leisure conflict, job stress, and intentions to quit. Furthermore, these relationships were stronger for those low in conscientiousness and those with fewer family obligations.


Unfortunately, the old saying appears to be true: All that shimmers isn’t gold. Yes, organizations should want their employees to perform OCBs. However, it appears these extra-role behaviors may only be beneficial in the long-term when they are truly voluntary and not the result of coercive company directives.


Bolino, M.C., Turnley, W. H., Gilstrap, J. B., & Sauzo, M. M. (2010). Citizenship under pressure: What’s a good soldier to do? Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(6), 835-855.