Purpose: To understand why some people choose to go ‘above and beyond’ the job description at work. We explored the effects of worker and workplace characteristics on extra-role (citizenship) behavior.
Summary: A lot of the work we do can’t be traced to a job description. When we volunteer for extra tasks, take the initiative to help a co-worker in need, come in early or stay late, we’re engaging in organizational citizenship behavior.
Companies depend on citizenship behavior. Intentionally or not, the average supervisor values citizenship behavior to about the same degree they value task performance. So, it pays to be a good citizen. To understand the reasons why employees choose to engage in citizenship behavior, we surveyed Canadian and American workers from a variety of jobs and industries.
Personality: Citizens by Nature
Employees that were more extraverted, agreeable, conscientious, honest and humble tended to engage in citizenship behaviors because they wanted to support their organization and their fellow coworkers. On the other hand, insincere and greedy employees more often used citizenship behavior to bolster their own reputations and increase their chances for raises and promotions.
The Mixed Role of Workplace Politics
When employees considered their workplace fair, they more often used citizenship selflessly. But in unfair workplaces, employees more often used citizenship to be liked and respected.
Strong Leaders Inspire Citizenship
Employees with considerate, motivating, and fair supervisors were far more likely to use citizenship to support their organization. Perhaps surprisingly, leadership didn’t consistently relate to more or less selfish forms of citizenship.
Practical Implications: Citizenship behavior is necessary to a healthy organization, but not all citizenship behavior is necessarily healthy. Manipulative people, or people in overly-political workplaces, may offer a helping hand opportunistically, seeming to care only when it suits their own needs. Considerate leaders that motivate employees toward a common goal may inspire sincere, lasting citizenship.
Wingate, T. G., Lee, C. S., & Bourdage, J. S. (2019). Who helps and why? Contextualizing organizational citizenship behavior. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 51, 147-158. https://doi.org/10.1037/cbs0000125
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