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Going above and beyond – What is OCB? Does it impact an organization’s performance?

20 min read

organizational citizenship behaviour

What is Organizational Citizenship Behavior? A Real-life Story of a Plane Crash

In 2009, an airplane with 155 passengers and crew members was hit by a flock of birds barely minutes after takeoff, disabling both engines. The plane was captained by a veteran named Chesley Sullenberger, also known as Sully. Although the standard operating procedure required him to return to the airport, Sully realized it would be too risky.

Captain Sully and his co-pilot, First Officer Jeffery Skiles, decided to do something that had never been attempted in the entire history of human aviation: intentionally landing a plane on water.

As people on the ground watched in wonder, Sully and Skiles successfully landed the plane in the Hudson River. Thanks to the bravery and skill of the crew and the timely response of emergency services, all 155 people aboard were evacuated to safety without any major injuries.

The above story may be familiar to you as it was widely covered in the media.

Sully and his crew were hailed as heroes, even inspiring an award-winning film.

Now, consider the following points:  

  • Sully and his co-pilot had seconds to act, with the life of 155 humans in their hands 
  • Recognizing the risks involved in returning to the airport, Sully took the decision to land a plane in water 
  • All the crew members on board demonstrated unmatched bravery, seamless coordination, and quick thinking 
  • Despite facing a scenario that could have resulted in their deaths, Sully, his co-pilot and all crew members remained calm and composed throughout the whole ordeal 
  • Sully communicated effectively with his crew and passengers, reassuring them and guiding them during the chaotic and stressful situation 

The above points define what Organizational Citizenship Behavior or OCB looks like in real life.   

OCB means Organizational Citizenship Behavior, referring to all positive actions and constructive behaviors from employees that go beyond their formal job description and are carried out without expecting any reward.   

In 1988, Dennis Organ, a management guru well-known for his research on organizational behavior citizenship (OCB) defined it as “Individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and in the aggregate promotes the effective functioning of the organization.”  

Robert Konovsky defined the same in simpler language, “OCB are individual behaviors that are beneficial to the organization and are not explicitly recognized by the formal reward system.”  

Unlike pro-social behavior, it’s not a one-shot episode where an employee helps others. OCB is more of a sustained behavior not restricted to a single episode.   

Here are some points that would put OCB in context and help understand its scope better:

  • OCB is contagious. When one person goes above and beyond, it inspires others to do the same. 
  • Great organizations are built on a foundation of employees who willingly go the extra mile without expecting anything in return. 
  • When employees embrace organizational citizenship behavior, they become ambassadors for the company’s values and mission. 
  • Organizational citizenship behavior is the manifestation of true employee engagement and dedication to the organization’s success. 
  • Organizational citizenship behavior is the secret ingredient that turns a group of individuals into a high-performing team.

five components of ocb

The 5 Components of OCB 

Organizational Citizenship Behavior consists of five components or categories. Although multiple models of OCB exist, with each having a differing set of features, the following are the major components, forming the bulwark of OCB.  

Let’s explore each of the five types of OCB with examples.  

1. Altruism 

Directed towards other individuals but leads to the group or department’s efficiency due to an enhancement in individual performance.  

Examples: 

  • Helping a colleague complete a project report they are struggling with 
  • Swapping work with a coworker in case their shift clashes with a personal obligation 

2. Civic Virtue 

Centered around the promotion of the organization’s overall interests, where employees voluntarily participate in functions or serve on committees.  

Examples: 

  • Participating in a blood donation camp 
  • Volunteering to teach children who don’t have access to formal education 

3. Conscientiousness  

Going beyond formal responsibilities to ensure the organization’s resources are put to effective use, and any possible challenge is flagged or solved.  

Examples: 

  • A content writer who ensures a sales brochure doesn’t contain pixelated images 
  • Coming to the office early to prepare for a client meeting  

4. Courtesy  

Being polite and considerate towards colleagues, responsive to their requests, and showing appreciation for their efforts and contributions.  

Examples: 

  • A manager being more respectful and mindful while working with a team member who is older than them in age  
  • Being patient with a co-worker, knowing they are having a tough time dealing with a personal problem 

5. Sportsmanship  

Being generous in spending more time and effort in the organization’s endeavors, being a team player, and exhibiting team spirit.  

  • Ensuring a co-worker receives duly deserved credit for any of their good work that may have gone overlooked 
  • As a leader, taking the fall for the team and showing accountability if a project fails to deliver 

two dimensions of ocb

Does OCB have a measurable impact on business?  

Researchers have thoroughly explored the positive impact of OCB through real-life use cases and case studies. All of them point to the fact that OCB has a huge impact on business outcomes.  

A report by Erez Yakoobi and Jacob Weisberg published on Frontiers not only explored this but also shed light on mechanisms that encourage or discourage these effects through two separate studies.  

  • In the first study, researchers found that employees who had confidence in their own abilities to do their job well were more likely to engage in OCB.  
  • In the second study, the researchers explored a different kind of belief, termed ‘Collective Efficacy’ or CE. Collective Efficacy refers to the belief that a group of people can work together effectively to achieve goals. The researchers explored whether CE could influence the relationship between OCB and performance. They found that when both employees and their managers had high levels of Collective Efficacy, the positive effects of OCB on performance were even stronger. This was especially true for performance efficiency and creativity. 

When employees go beyond the call of duty and become more cooperative, they become a tightly-knit group. This leads to a greater understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, ultimately resulting in a culture where each employee has the other employee’s back.  

In the following, let’s explore the importance and measurable impact of OCB  

Enhanced teamwork: The positive interactions that are a byproduct of OCB foster a supportive environment, improve team dynamics, and help workers improve their productivity and efficiency. Collaboration becomes smoother, and you would see a very visible uptick in teamwork.  

Boost in employee engagement and satisfaction: Employee engagement has always been a tough nut to crack for organizations. An organization where employees exhibit OCB will have more engaged employees and a positive culture. More importantly, employees will feel more satisfied since they will have a greater goal to work towards.  

Uptick in organizational reputation: Employees who go the extra mile in providing great customer service, help out their colleagues build and reinforce a positive reputation of the organization. The positive brand image not only boosts business but also attracts employees who share similar notions when it comes to OCB.  

Reduced turnover and absenteeism: A positive work environment fostered by OCB can contribute to higher employee retention rates, improved job satisfaction and lower absenteeism. When employees feel valued, supported, and satisfied with their work environment, they are more likely to stay with the organization.  

Ripple effect among other employees: OCB can also create a ripple effect, inspiring others to exhibit similar behaviors. When employees observe and experience the positive impact of OCB, it can foster a culture of mutual support, cooperation, and organizational citizenship throughout the company. 

All of these will ultimately help you achieve optimum productivity levels and better alignment with organizational goals.  

Getting started with OCB – Understanding that employees yearn for meaning and purpose at work  

If you head a business unit or are in charge of people management and are wondering where to start your OCB journey, then you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your EVP (employee value proposition) still resonate with your employees, or has it become outdated?
  • Do you and your leadership accept the fact that work is no longer separate but a subset of life
  • Do you and your leadership agree that values are driven by feelings and not just features alone?

Although many organizations may respond with a ‘yes’ to the above questions, the reality is quite different. A report says that while 82% of employees say it’s important for their organization to see them as a person and not just an employee, only 45% of employees believe their organization does so.  

The quiet reflection during the pandemic, the threat of getting laid off, and the great resignation have given employees a yearning for meaning and purpose in their work life. The new generation of workers doesn’t see work as purely transactional. On the contrary, they are happy to recognize its connection with their lives.  

Based on how you and your leadership answer the above questions, you can explore the following models of OCB, depending on your organizational culture and goals. 

The 3 models of OCB and their suitability for different work cultures  

OCB has many varied models depending on the type of culture you have built in your organization. In the following, let’s briefly explore the three major models of OCB and their suitability for different types of work cultures.  

Concentric Model for a collectivist culture 

A collectivist culture’s most defining trait is that it is more likely to prioritize the needs of the group over the needs of the individual. Among the three OCB models, the concentric model is best suited for organizations with this work culture. The model divides OCB into domains that start from the self and a person’s immediate group, leading to the scope of the organization and society. This division helps the business leaders encourage behaviors that benefit the group and the organization as a whole.   

3-component model for an individualistic culture  

This OCB model is best suited for cultures where the individual is prioritized over the group. As the name suggests, the three-component model divides OCB into three major components, altruism, conscientiousness, and sportsmanship. Organizations with individualistic cultures can implement this model of OCB to encourage desired behaviors from each employee.  

Multidimensional model for all types of culture 

The most flexible model of all, the multidimensional model can be adapted to any culture. It includes the five components that we have discussed above: altruism, civic virtue, conscientiousness, courtesy, and sportsmanship. This model could be optimized and tweaked according to the unique requirements of an organization. It’s important to note the size of your organization, industry, goals, and, most importantly, values would be detrimental in deciding which model is suitable for you.  

Role of employee experience in OCB 

Employee experience, or EX as it’s more commonly referred to, has emerged as one of the primary factors in employee retention. Great employee experience reduces attrition and makes the workforce more productive and driven.  

A research paper published by Hasanuddin University, Indonesia, has stated that EX is the ‘most potential predictor’ of OCB. “Employees are willing to apply OCB because it involves an emotional component. Individuals who have high employee engagement have a tendency to engage in constructive and responsible behavior at work,” it stated.  “Employee engagement is positively related to OCB because employees who are involved in their work not only have to fulfill the requirements of their formal roles, but also make extra efforts to carry out other activities that go beyond the requirements of their formal roles. The employees involved work with passion and are more committed to the organization,” it further explained.  

In other words, EX and OCB both propel each other.  

Another article published by the Journal of Asian Finance, Economics and Business outlines the following points: 

  • Employee engagement (EE) has a significant effect on Employee Performance (EP) 
  • Employee engagement (EE) significantly mediates the relationship between Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) and employee performance 

three component model of ocb

Like Rome, you cannot build EX and OCB in a day 

Rome was not built in a day, goes the famous adage. The same applies to employee experience. In order to improve OCB and employee experience, you would require a rethink of several core areas of your organization.  

  1. Get the right people aboard: In his famous book ‘Good to Great’, Jim Collins has heavily emphasized on ‘getting the right people on the bus’ before even determining its journey and the direction it would take. Hiring the right people with the required OCB traits will help you create an unending chain reaction of OCB that will only increase as you hire more people with the required behavioral fit.  
  2. Recognize and reward OCB: Yes, OCB is not easy to measure and is very subjective. While you would have some employees who would be at the highest level of OCB, the goal is to get all employees to reach that level. Linking rewards and recognition with OCB will ignite aspiration among all the employees to reach the desired level of OCB.  
  3. Lead by example: Not only is it important to encourage positive behaviors, but it’s also important to walk the talk and lead by example. A heavy emphasis on desired behaviors without active participation from the leadership would not drive OCB effectively.  
  4. Enable continuous feedback: The power of continuous feedback has been proven to be instrumental in improving performance and output. When employees, peers and managers practice continuous feedback, it would also help in identifying desired behaviors and encouraging them openly.  
  5. Encourage transparency: Transparency is the cornerstone of trust, without which you cannot build a good employee experience. Leaders who are transparent and encourage transparency will eventually witness increased OCB in their organizations.  

An EX-platform: The secret recipe for an improved EX and OCB 

A Gartner report has stated that only 13% of employees are fully satisfied with their experience. Employee dissatisfaction peaked during the Great Resignation, causing many organizations to take a step back and analyze what they ought to do in order to improve the employee experience.  

While enhancing EX is a long-term game that requires major changes within the organization, such as its culture, the most important question that needed an answer was:  

How can we leverage tech to sustain positive cultural changes?  

Employee experience platforms! 

EX platforms are a fusion of HR best practices and tech that build an ecosystem of communication, productivity, engagement, and personalized solutions to employee requirements and challenges.  

Having assisted thousands of companies in initiating and materializing HR digital transformation, Keka has been leading the way when it comes to employee experience. It has optimized its modules and solutions around EX, empowering businesses to build work cultures that drive efficiency through self-accountability.  

Keka’s EX platform also plays a major role in reinforcing OCB across organizations, helping CHROs, CXOs, division heads and managers capture the pulse of their teams and identify as well as reward positive behavior. 

Connect with our HR digital transformation experts today to discuss your workforce and EX challenges. 

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    Meet the author

    Ahmed ZD

    Ahmed is a storyteller and a bookworm. He has joined Keka to be a part of its HR transformation cause. He loves telling untold stories and believes that all objects (even a brick that has fallen from a wall) and living beings have unique stories that deserve to be told. He is a firm believer that no movie can ever do justice to the book it's based on and it's his lifelong mission to convince everyone he meets to read books before they watch movie adaptations.

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