Organisational Citizenship Behaviour Series

Getting employees to go beyond the call of duty

Every manager would want their team members to go beyond the call of duty in executing their functions. How to achieve this is an ongoing challenge given that the average employee operates within the confines of a role or job description that spells out what needs to be done and in some cases also states the expected levels of competency.

Almost every manager knows that it is one thing to get competent employees who can deliver at the highest possible standard and consistent with the documented requirements of the job and yet another thing to get those who voluntarily go beyond the documented contract by doing whatever else it takes to enhance organisational effectiveness. Many managers are also aware that differences in group, team and unit performance are not just a result of differences in skills and competence levels as many activities happen beyond the formal job description. It is those optional, voluntary and not formally recognised activities undertaken by employees that support the achievement of organisational goals and contribute to significant differences in performance. In the war for competent employees, it is therefore not enough to get the best talent, or to even retain it but rather to create an environment that makes the employee willing to go beyond the call of duty by acting like citizens of the organisation, what has been referred to as the “good soldier syndrome.”

Organisational Citizenship Behaviour

Organisational Citizenship Behaviour (OCB) refers to employees going beyond the call of duty by participating in an extra-role performance that leads to a positive work environment.  It relates to discretionary and voluntary activities undertaken by an employee that support the achievement of organisational goals. The employee undertakes the work without any expectation of a reward as they consider it as constituting the way they do their work. The work undertaken cannot be rewarded or recognised through the organisation’s formal systems as it lies outside the employee’s formal work as described in their role description. Further, the employee cannot face any negative repercussions for not engaging in the work as it does not constitute part of their contract of employment and is not recognised by an organisation’s formal performance management system.

OCB while discretionary is supportive of the social and psychological work environment. Workplace enhancing characteristics of employees with high levels of OCB include altruism, courtesy, sportsmanship, conscientiousness, civic virtue, loyalty, and loyal boosterism.

Altruism (interpersonal helping) involves voluntarily assisting others for them to increase their work output and being concerned about their well being without anticipating any payment. It also includes peacekeeping and generally ensuring a conducive work environment with good interpersonal relationships. Altruism is associated with a positive influence on the individual performance of employees. At the team level, it has been associated with teamwork and cooperation. Helpfulness has been found to have a significant effect on the quality and quantity of work as those lagging behind get assistance from colleagues.

Courtesy is having respect for co-workers and engaging in behaviour meant to minimize workplace conflict, for example, by making others aware of changes taking place that could affect their work. It has been associated with a reduction of intergroup conflicts and increased efficiency in task performance.

Sportsmanship is a willingness to endure workplace difficulties and being positive in the face of problems where this results in organisational improvement. It includes avoiding non-value adding complaints and instead of being positive and encouraging combined effort. Sportsmanship has been associated with an increase in performance, enhancement of employee morale and reduced turnover intentions and actual turnover.

Conscientiousness involves working hard and performing way above expected performance levels while also genuinely accepting and complying with workplace rules, regulations and procedures. Employees who exhibit conscientiousness take the initiative including self-driven learning both within and outside the organisation, take time to understand the organisation and what is critical for its success and equip themselves to serve the organisation better. Conscientiousness has been associated with an increase in managerial efficiency and effectiveness, compliance with organisational requirements, taking the initiative and problem-solving.

Civic virtue refers to an employee positively representing the organisation. This can be through getting involved in the organisation’s social and political activities such as meetings and social responsibility work both inside and outside the organisation. Organisational obedience and compliance are also part of civic virtue.  It has been associated with enhancement of service and product quality because employees are concerned about their organisation’s reputation.

Loyalty goes beyond trustworthiness, organisational obedience and compliance to include whistle-blowing, offering constructive criticism and stewardship. Loyalty is reflected in an employee’s willingness to support the organisation even during challenging times. This includes giving candid feedback as necessary as opposed to being a mere observer when things are going wrong. Whistle-blowing is part of employee loyalty as only loyal employees find it essential to report occurrences and behaviours that are detrimental to the organisation.

Loyal boosterism or cheerleading is talking positively about the organisation at every opportunity.  It includes advocacy participation and is linked to employee loyalty in that it is loyal employees who are more likely to spread positive information about the organisation while defending when it is portrayed in bad light.

General Benefits of OCB

OCB has been associated with various positive organisational outcomes such as:

  • Positive workplace atmosphere;
  • Effective functioning of an organisation regarding productivity;
  • Efficiency regarding adherence to operating procedures;
  • Innovation and creativity;
  • Individual and group job performance;
  • Team coherence and productivity;
  • High performance work culture;
  • Customer satisfaction;
  • Total quality management;
  • Organisational learning and knowledge sharing;
  • Reduced turnover and talent retention;
  • Reduced deviant behaviour;
  • Positive corporate image.


Competitive advantage can then be derived from employee discretionary performance – their willingness to go the extra mile – their OCB. The main question is: what then is it that organisations can do to promote OCB? Alternatively, what are the antecedents of employee OCB? These can be grouped into two broad areas: individual and organisation based causes. Individual causes include job satisfaction, engagement, embeddedness, organisational commitment, and self-efficacy. Organisation based causes include organisational climate factors such as HRM practices, task characteristics, leadership, and culture.

Individual Causes of OCB

Job satisfaction refers to an individual’s positive emotional state derived from their appraisal of the way they are experiencing their work. This is influenced by factors such as task identity, variety and significance, type of task feedback, level of autonomy, aspects of job enrichment, empowerment, training and development opportunities, teamwork dynamics,  performance appraisal systems remunerated practices and general relationships in the work environment. Employees who are satisfied with their jobs are more likely to engage in OCB as a way of reciprocating what the company would have done for them.

Engagement refers to the extent to which an employee is absorbed and enthusiastic about their work and to which they display cognitive, emotional and behavioural allegiance to the organisation.  Factors associated with employee engagement and subsequent OCB include psychological meaningfulness of work, feeling psychologically safe, relations with supervisors and workmates and work-life balance. Where employee psychological needs are neglected, employees tend to have a low sense of self-esteem, feel alienated and are less inclined towards OCB.

Embeddedness is the extent to which an employee is attached to the organisation in terms of the strength of social linkages with co-workers, their sense of “fit” with their role, the organisation and community which influences what they think they stand to lose if they were to leave the organisation. Employee embeddedness is therefore affected by the extent to which they perceive a match between their job and their other interests both inside and outside the organisation and how much they would have to sacrifice if they were to decide to resign from the job. The more they think they stand to lose, the more likely they are to engage in OCB as they commit themselves to a longer term relationship.

Organisational commitment is the extent to which the employee: identifies with the organisation at an emotional level, wholeheartedly accepts its rules and regulations, and feels obligated not only to stay with the organisation but also to protect it from harm.

Self-efficacy is an employee’s perception of her / his ability to carry out specified tasks to produce the desired results. When self-efficacy is high, an employee becomes more willing to take extra-role work.

Employee loyalty traditionally refers to organisational citizenship conduct that reflects one’s commitment to and strength of their involvement in the organisation and their determination to perpetuate the relationship.  With the advent of millennial type workers, it also means a commitment to a specific job role as opposed to an organisation. They will, therefore, continue with the relationship as long as it meets their growth needs. The challenge is to understand the needs and ensure that they are satisfied.

Organisation level Causes of OCB

At organisation level OCB results from addressing employee those employee-related factors that can aid or abate their citizenship behaviour since it can be an employee’s way of reciprocating the treatment, they get from the organisation. The climate within the organisation is the single most important organisational factor that influences OCB. Included in organisational climate are factors such as HRM practices, task characteristics, leadership and culture.

HRM practices linked to OCB include performance management, rewards management, and organisational justice and fairness. Supportive HRM practices have been associated with positive employee attitudes and behaviour. HRM practices set the tone of the nature of relationships in an organisation as they represent its formal communication with employees.

Task characteristics are as reflected in the way job roles are configured, the feedback mechanisms and the extent to which tasks are meaningful for employees.

Leadership practices that are characterized by idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation and psychological empowerment of employees facilitate OCB.

Organisation culture represents the way things are generally done in an organisation. It covers all aspects of the organisation and better communicates what is really valued. The organisation’s culture as seen through the group’s shared values can facilitate OCB when the said values reflect inner employee needs, beliefs and aspirations resulting in employees finding meaningfulness in their work.

Taking advantage of OCB

To take full advantage of OCB, it is critical to have clarity not only on what it is and its benefits but more importantly what individual and organisational factors influence it to enable managers to take the necessary steps of building a workplace environment that nurtures OCB. It is apparent that having attracted talent, an organisation has to work on deriving maximum value through ensuring that employees perform both in-role and extra-role activities. Failure to address factors that influence extra-role behaviour in a job may lead to unsatisfied intrinsic needs, the absence of OCB and related negative results such as increased turnover and general employee work disengagement. Ultimately, failure to leverage employee extra-role performance can compromise an organisation’s competitiveness.


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