What is Organizational Citizenship Behavior? [Types, Examples]

Part 1

What is Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB)?

What is the definition of organizational citizenship?

Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) is a term used to describe employees who go above and beyond their formal job requirements to help their organization. OCB goes beyond the scope of what is expected of an employee, such as volunteering for extra tasks, helping co-workers, being helpful to customers, and offering solutions to organizational problems. OCB is beneficial for both organizations and employees, as it can improve employee morale, performance, and productivity.

Most employees understand that their primary duty is to do the work that is assigned to them, stay away from behaviors that could be deemed troublesome, and deliver work that is acceptable and beneficial to the organization. Organizational citizenship behavior deals with the actions and behaviors that are not required by workers. They are not critical to the job, but benefit the team and encourage even greater organizational functioning and efficiency.

Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), or ‘The Good Soldier Syndrome’, is generally considered to be any behavior that is not formally required, but that contributes to the efficient and effective functioning of the organization.

This is also referred to as a worker “going above and beyond,” or “giving their all.” They look at their job as more than just a paycheck and strive to do all they can to make their work environment run smoothly; even if it has a minimal connection to their current duties.

Usually, these behaviors are seen as positive by managers and business leaders, and the importance and impact of these behaviors should be noted.

According to a study done in Procedia Economics and Finance, researchers found a correlation between the organization’s age and three primary principles: altruism, courtesy, and conscientiousness.

These personality characteristics were cited as having a high link to an employee’s tendency to engage in OCB. These behaviors were also tied to job satisfaction, justice, transformational leadership, and organizational support. OCB has also been shown to be vital for employee retention.

What is the difference between performance and organizational citizenship behaviors?

Organizational citizenship behavior is a term that refers to any voluntary behavior that goes beyond what is expected of an individual employee (beyond a formal job description). It can include altruistic behavior, helping colleagues, taking on extra tasks, and organizational loyalty. This differs from employee performance, which is behavior that is required by the job and can be quantified in some way. OCB is often seen as a supplement to job performance. OCB is more informal and less structured, but has been shown to have a big impact on workplace morale and effectiveness.


Why is citizenship behavior so important for organizations?

Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) is a critical part of any successful organization. OCB can help organizations increase productivity, improve morale, foster cooperation between coworkers, and create a positive working environment, which can lead to higher rates of retention. It can also lead to improved customer service and higher customer satisfaction ratings.


Part 2

What Are the Upsides to Organizational Citizenship Behavior?

  • A Sense of Purpose

    Workers feel a more significant sense of purpose and work meaningfulness. This means that employees feel their work is essential and useful to the company.

  • Feeling in Control

    Organizational Citizenship Behavior allows employees to feel they have greater control over the work they do, and how they do it. Workers get the opportunity to decide what they want to put more time into and how they want to accomplish it.

  • A Renewed Sense of Vigor

    When employees feel they are doing good for others or think that they are engaging in work that means something, it prevents feelings of burnout. Employees can become re-energized and have a new sense of purpose so they can continue to do work that furthers company goals.

  • Clear Up Role Ambiguity

    If a job has not been defined by superiors, leaders can use this as an opportunity to make the employee’s position fit with work goals and add in elements that encourage Organizational Citizenship Behavior. As time goes by, roles need to be redefined or changed to reflect a worker’s skill set better. If leaders are savvy they can work with employees to work in OCB elements.

  • Increased Job Performance

    A 2014 study revealed that Organizational Citizenship Behavior led to more significant job performance which leads to high-quality work and increased productivity for employers. It also came with the bonus of higher interpersonal relationships, a reduction in conflict, and lower time costs.

  • Engage Early-Career Workers

    The same study also showed that workers who did not have a lot of work experience (but had high amounts of intelligence) were open to jumping into Organizational Citizenship Behavior. They were not set in their ways and were looking for ways to become engaged in the organization. Encouraging them to get involved in other ways that promote OCB is a good idea.

Are citizenship behaviors always beneficial to the company?

Potential Disadvantages of OCB

The answer is yes: there are not many disadvantages cited for OCB. The consensus by many sources is that these behaviors benefit the organization and the employees. However, there was a 2007 research study that examined the effects of organizations that incorporate a formal way of dealing with OCB, and those that include an employee’s engagement in OCB as part of performance appraisals and job reviews.
Two primary issues could arise:

The first is that employees might miss out on the behaviors. Many times, employees engage in actions or duties that are not always witnessed by influencers or leaders making decisions. If employees are assessed on these other behaviors, then this can be problematic. The other issue is that a greater emphasis on Organizational Citizenship Behavior can cause employees to experience job-related stress and work-life balance issues. Behaviors that were considered voluntary and are now mandated to become a part of the position takes away the aspect of Organizational Citizenship Behavior that can increase engagement.

Part 3

Organizational Citizenship Behavior Types, Examples, Q&A

What are the characteristics of organizational citizenship behavior?

There are various ways the employees can show organizational citizenship, but there are some agreed upon characteristics of OCB. These three main characteristics were outlined by Organ and colleagues in their research studies:

  1. Altruism

    Helping others without expecting something in return. Altruism refers to behaviors that benefit others without any expectation of reward. This type of Organizational Citizenship Behavior is when a person decides to help someone else without expecting anything in return.
    OCB Example:
    In a business setting, this would likely take the form of a worker choosing to help a co-worker finish a project or a set of tasks even though the work does not necessarily relate to what they need to get done in their regular workday.

  2. Conscientiousness

    Conscientiousness is the tendency to do things correctly and thoroughly. It is characterized by a strong sense of responsibility and initiative in completing tasks, reliability, and self-discipline. Conscientiousness is the trait associated with being organized, efficient, goal-directed, and dependable, so conscientious individuals are also more likely to display OCB, such as assisting co-workers, helping out in times of crisis, and taking on additional tasks without being asked.
    When employees go above and beyond, the quality of conscientiousness is likely at work.
    OCB Example:
    Coming into work early to finish a project, working to ensure team goals are exceeded for the quarter, developing a new way to approach a process or procedure even when this duty is not outlined in their job description are all ways that workers can exemplify this trait.

  3. Courtesy

    Courtesy encompasses behaviors that demonstrate respect and consideration for other people. Courteous behavior includes being polite and respectful to colleagues, customers and vendors. Courtesy contributes to the overall culture of a workplace and can create positive relationships among colleagues.

    This is when a worker is considerate or polite to those they work with.
    OCB Example:
    This could look like a worker taking care to watch their noise levels if they need to speak on the phone with clients or checking in with co-workers about a troubling personal issue that could impact their performance.

What are the dimensions of organizational citizenship behavior?

Besides 3 main characteristics of OCB by Organ and colleagues listed above (Altruism, Conscientiousness, Courtesy), there are 7 dimensions of OCB outlined by researchers Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Paine, and Bachrach in their study of OCB:

  1. Loyalty

    Organizational loyalty is the commitment, trust and dedication employees have towards their organization which allows for a sense of unity amongst employees.

  2. Initiative

    Individual initiative is the intention of an individual to take independent action that benefits the organization. It involves taking risks, being creative, and using one’s own resources and capabilities to make something happen, as well as proactively providing constructive ideas, feedback, and suggestions.

  3. Sportsmanship

    Remaining a positive and supportive attitude despite setbacks. Sportsmanship involves taking responsibility for mistakes and maintaining a positive attitude in challenging situations. Sportsmanship also involves being supportive and encouraging to those around you.
    OCB Example:
    An employee decides to stay in good spirits even when something does not go their way, or when something that creates a considerable amount of annoyance or frustration. In a regular business setting, this could be exemplified by a worker refraining from complaining or gossiping about a rejected project proposal.

  4. Civic Virtue

    Civic virtue involves being responsible for the organization’s well-being and actively contributing to its success, including volunteering for extra activities when needed. This is when a worker represents the company they are associated with in a positive light. This could occur within or outside of the business. It encourages a sense of community and strong interpersonal ties between co-workers.
    OCB Example:
    Employees speak favorably about the organization to those outside of it, participate in charity projects the company participates in, and plan or attend company-sanctioned social events.

  5. Prosocial Behavior

    Prosocial behavior, or helping behavior, in the context of OCB is defined as helping others with work-related issues. OCB researcher Podsakoff described the following components of this type of behavior: altruism, courtesy, cheerleading, peacemaking, interpersonal helping and facilitation.

  6. Self-Development

    Self-development involves individuals taking ownership of their own growth and development by engaging in activities such as skill development, personal goal setting, and reflective learning.

  7. Organizational Compliance

    Employees strive to follow the organization’s values, norms rules and regulations.

Together, these components form the basis for OCB and its impact on organizational performance.

Examples of organizational citizenship behavior:

Helping other team members, displaying courtesy, being cooperative, participating in organizational activities, volunteering to take on extra tasks, taking individual initiative to to get work done and resolve workplace issues, participating in organizational initiatives, volunteering for leadership roles, offering advice and feedback, demonstrating enthusiasm for the organization and its goals, and proactively offering solutions to organizational challenges.

What are the effects of OCB?

OCB can have a positive impact on employee satisfaction, team dynamics, and organizational performance. Studies of OCB have found that an increase in OCB activities such as helping others, going beyond the call of duty, and being cooperative with coworkers can lead to a decrease in counterproductive work behavior.

What is the effect of organizational citizenship behavior on counterproductive work behavior?

Recent research has suggested that OCB has a positive influence on Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB). Studies have found that an increase in OCB activities such as helping others, going beyond the call of duty, and being cooperative with coworkers can lead to a decrease in CWB such as theft, sabotage, and absenteeism.

What causes organizational citizenship behavior?

The exact causes of OCB are still being researched, but some of the key factors include personal satisfaction, a feeling of responsibility to the organization, and a sense of loyalty towards the organization. Additionally, the quality of leadership and communication within an organization can have a strong influence on OCB as well.

What is ethical leadership and organizational citizenship behavior?

Ethical leadership is a core component of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB).  Ethical leadership encourages OCB by creating an environment where employees feel empowered to take initiative and are rewarded for their efforts. This type of leadership fosters a culture of collaboration and trust that ultimately benefits the entire organization.

What are the factors that influence organizational citizenship behavior?

  1. Leadership style
  2. Organizational culture and shared organizational values
  3. Rewards and recognition
  4. Presence of role models
  5. Job satisfaction and engagement
  6. Team dynamics and collaboration
  7. Workplace stress levels
  8. Workplace ethics and values
  9. Mutuality

What is mutuality?

Mutuality is an important concept when it comes to organizational citizenship behavior. Mutuality is the belief that sustained support and collaboration among all parties, be it helping out colleagues, being proactive in solving problems, or being supportive of other team members, will benefit all in the long run. Mutuality encourages employees to make positive contributions to their organization, creating a cycle of positive reinforcement.

What are other factors that affects organizational citizenship behavior?

Factors which can affect OCB include the leader’s style, the organizational culture, and an employee’s individual values and beliefs. Leaders who recognize and reward OCB have been found to have higher performing teams, while those who do not recognize and reward OCB are likely to have lower performing teams. There is also evidence that employees who feel they are treated with respect are more likely to engage in OCB than those who do not. Additionally, individual values and beliefs can influence OCB, as employees with a strong sense of a greater purpose or mission are more likely to engage in OCB than those who do not.

How does organizational justice affect organizational citizenship behavior?

Organizational justice is an important factor in motivating employees to display organizational citizenship behavior. Research has found that when employees perceive their organization as being fair, they are more likely to display behavior that is beneficial to their organization, such as volunteering for extra tasks, helping out co-workers, and displaying higher levels of commitment to the organization. In contrast, when employees perceive their organization as being unfair, they are less likely to display such behavior. Therefore, organizations should strive to promote fairness in the workplace in order to create an environment in which employees are more likely to display organizational citizenship behaviors.

What is the relationship between perceived CSR and employees’ organizational citizenship behavior?

Research has found a positive correlation between employees’ perceptions of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and their organizational citizenship behavior. Specifically, when employees perceive their organization as having high levels of CSR, they are more likely to display behaviors that benefit the organization as a whole, such as helping coworkers and going beyond the scope of their job requirements. This suggests that organizations with higher levels of CSR are more likely to have employees who are engaged and willing to help out when needed.

Which personal traits are the most important in predicting OCB?

  • Conscientiousness
  • Commitment to the organization (shared values)
  • Self-motivation
  • Positive attitude
  • Proactivity
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Adaptability
  • Conflict resolution skills

What is organizational citizenship behavior for the environment?

Environmental citizenship is a concept that has been gaining traction in recent years. This could include activities such as volunteering for environmental projects or initiatives, engaging with the local community, sorting and recycling waste, reducing energy consumption, and promoting sustainable practices within the organization. Organizations that have implemented organizational citizenship behavior for the environment have seen a positive impact on their bottom line by saving costs associated with energy consumption, reducing waste, and increasing employee morale.

What is an example of environmental behavior?

One example of an environmental behavior is when employees take initiative to reduce their organization’s carbon footprint by turning off unnecessary lights and equipment when they are not in use. This type of behavior not only demonstrates an employee’s commitment to their organization, but it also shows that they are aware of their role in helping the environment.

Part 4

Organizational Citizenship Behaviors: Best Practices

Leaders are always looking for employees who inhibit the behaviors and principles that makeup Organizational Citizenship Behaviors. However, managers and leaders can help to encourage these behaviors which should have a positive impact on culture and engagement.

  • Set an Example

    Leaders need to exemplify the types of behaviors they want employees to take on. Cultures are established at the top, and if workers see leaders being considerate, jumping in to help when they can, participating in events outside of work, helping to plan charity events sponsored by the organization, then workers will have a frame of reference for engaging in Organizational Citizenship Behaviors.

  • Encourage Teamwork

    OCBs have been cited for their significant impact on interpersonal relationships and strengthening co-worker bonds. If a culture of collaboration and cooperation is established early on, workers will see themselves playing a vital role in supporting who they work with. If goals and objectives are explained in a way that encourages workers to look out for the team than qualities like altruism and courtesy can take hold.

  • Connect the Qualities of OCBs with Company Goals

    Each principle of Organizational Citizenship Behavior: altruism, courtesy, conscientiousness, sportsmanship, and civic action should be connected with company goals and values. They do not have to be named the same or referenced directly, but the qualities these characteristics reference should be included in any verbiage that relates to company goals or objectives. This will help encourage a culture represented by OCBs.

  • Don’t Over-Regulate

    There is some argument as to whether Organizational Citizenship Behaviors should be regulated or considered a part of the job. However, what makes them so valuable to leadership is that the number of OCBs that workers engage in can tell leaders how productive or engaged employees are. It also takes away the voluntary nature of OCBs which reveals an element of choice. When presented with the opportunity, workers need to have the freedom to decide to be altruistic, show courtesy, be conscientious, have sportsmanship, or engage in civic action.

Here are some tips to help promote organizational citizenship behavior:

  1. Recognize and reward employee contributions. Develop an internal award system to recognize exemplary staff members who practice OCB. Recognizing accomplishments and providing positive reinforcement when employees display behavior that supports organizational goals can help increase engagement and OCB.
  2. Communicate the importance of organizational citizenship behavior. Organizations should ensure that their employees are aware of the importance of OCB and how it can benefit the organization.
  3. Feature OCB success stories in internal newsletters.
  4. Foster a culture of trust and respect.
  5. Encourage employees to discuss their experiences and ideas with one another.
  6. Involve employees in decision-making processes that affect them.
  7. Implement a leadership style that emphasizes communication and collaboration.
  8. Encourage a culture of collaboration and teamwork.
  9. Empower employees to take ownership of their work and responsibilities.
  10. Establish trust and respect between managers and employees.
  11. Foster open communication between all levels of the organization.
  12. Provide professional development opportunities for employees. It is essential for employers to create an environment that encourages and supports employees to demonstrate the behaviors associated with OCB. One way to do this is to provide employees with the necessary resources and training to help them become more engaged in their work.
  13. Provide meaningful and challenging work by regularly communicating organization’s mission, vision, values and goals.
  14. Encourage collaboration and team-building activities. Organize team-building activities that promote collaboration and cooperation within the workplace. Having a team-based approach where everyone is working together towards common goals can help foster greater collaboration and drive employees to be more active participants in achieving organizational objectives.
  15. Provide role models by modeling the desired behavior.


How to measure organizational citizenship behavior? What are the organizational citizenship behavior scales?

By measuring OCB, organizations can gain insight into the overall productivity and morale of their workforce. In order to measure OCB, organizations can use a scale to assess the extent of an individual’s OCB. Some popular scales that can be used to measure organizational citizenship behavior are the following:

– OCB-I and OCB-O;

– The Organizational Citizenship Behavior Checklist (OCB-C).

What are OCB-I and OCB-O?

Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) can be broken down into two separate categories: OCB-Individualism (OCB-I) and OCB-Organizationalism (OCB-O). OCB-I refers to behaviors that individuals engage in that benefit the organization, such as going above and beyond their job duties. OCB-O refers to behaviors that benefit the organization as a whole, such as helping to create a positive workplace culture.

Both of these scales have been widely used in research, and have proven to be reliable and valid measures of OCB. Consulting with an expert in organizational behavior can help to determine whether either of these scales are appropriate for assessing OCB in a given situation.


Learn more:

OCB is often influenced by beneficial leadership styles:
What Is Visionary Leadership? 7 Traits of a Visionary Leader
Charismatic Leadership: The Good, Bad, and Best Practices
What Is Transformational Leadership?
What Is Democratic Leadership?
What is Affiliative Leadership? The “People First” Approach
5 Main Principles of Laissez-Faire Leadership
What is Servant Leadership? 5 Must-Have Principles

OCB is also associated with well-developed and maintained mission, vision, and values statements (learn more: How to Create a Perfect Company Mission, Vision, Values Statement?).

Also, ethical decision making models help shape an organization’s culture on its path to encourage and maintain OCB.

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Posted in: Improvement, Leadership