Personality and organizational citizenship behavior

Personality and organizational citizenship behavior

Dennis W. Organ

Management scientists have not for some time now given much credence to the idea that job attitudes or job satisfaction “causes” individual productivity at work. However, it has been suggested (Organ, 1977) that job satisfaction might well have something to do with other forms of contribution to work organizations. The effects of satisfaction would register in contributions unconstrained by ability, technology, or workflow, and not otherwise elicited by formal incentives or literal job requirements. Why should this be the case? Because attitudes predict behavior only to the extent that behavior is not bound by situational constraints or forces. Moreover, general attitudes (and job satisfaction is arguably a general attitude) seldom predict specific behaviors of the sort implied by productive performance. Rather, they predict aggregations of thematically related (as opposed to topographically similar) behaviors over time and across varied situations.

A 1988 review of then-extant evidence (Organ, 1988) supported the position that job satisfaction is related to constructive, spontaneous, optional, noncompensated contributions that various writers have called “organizational citizenship behavior” (OCB). Further development of research along these lines has strongly suggested that participant assessments of fairness–fairness of supervision, of policies and procedures, of pay–goes far to account for the relationship between satisfaction and OCB (Organ & Konovsky, 1989; Farh, Podsakoff & Organ, 1990; Moorman, 1990). Of course, measures of perceived fairness are fundamentally attitudinal measures, and much of what we call and measure as job satisfaction comes down to conceptions of fair outcomes, treatment, and procedures.

Interestingly, the theoretical basis for predicting behavior from personality rests on very much the same considerations as the prediction of behavior from general attitudes. That is, measures of personality seldom account for much variance in specific behaviors in tightly controlled situations. Personality has predictive power only in what Mischel (1977) calls “weak situations.” Weak situations are those devoid of compelling external incentives and lacking in “demand characteristics” for behavior. Furthermore, Epstein (1980) demonstrated that measures of personality attain maximum predictive power when the behavioral criterion is an aggregate of thematically related behaviors across time and situations.

It would seem that OCB by its very nature would represent behavior that occurs in weak situations (some, e.g., Davis-Blake & Pfeffer, 1989, would suggest that work organizations feature predominantly strong rather than weak situations, but we will defer for the moment discussion of this issue). Moreover, if OCB is measured by ratings of how participants characteristically respond to such situations–i.e., the extent to which they spontaneously respond in cooperative, altruistic, and conscientious fashion–we would expect that such ratings would operationally capture aggregation trends across many instances and opportunities for so responding. In sum, we should expect to find in OCB the kind of “performance” that is attributable to personality.

Just as Vroom (1964) and others before him had disabused us of any simple or substantial effect of job attitudes on performance, Guion & Gottier (1965) saw scant evidence of validity in personality measures for predicting job performance. But if OCB offered a criterion for detecting the effects of job satisfaction, perhaps it likewise establishes the candidacy of personality–at least certain dimensions of personality–as an independent variable to account for individual contributions to organizational effectiveness.

Personality, Job Attitudes, & OCB

There is an even more pressing reason for assessing the role of personality as a determinant of OCB.

Recent evidence (e.g., Staw & Ross, 1985; Staw, Bell & Clausen, 1986; Arvey, Bouchard, Segal & Abraham, 1989) provides a case for thinking of job attitudes as substantially dispositional in origin. Some people are more satisfied, willy-nilly. To be sure, the research in question has not gone unchallenged (Davis-Blake & Pfeffer, 1989; Cropanzano & James, 1990), and debate continues as to the relative contribution of disposition and situation in accounting for work attitudes. Nonetheless, we must reckon with the possibility that some dimension or dimensions of personality underly both satisfaction and OCB and thus account for the consistent relationship between satisfaction and OCB. This possibility exists so long as some appreciable part of the variance in job attitudes is dispositional in nature.

Assume for the moment that OCB is functionally related to variance in job attitudes (such as fairness assessments) that are not dispositional expressions, but reactions to the context of work. We would take this to mean that contributions in the form of OCB are responses to judgments people make about the fairness with which they have been treated. We would, in consequence, take serious interest in pursuing a general model relating social justice to workplace behavior, a model taking shape in the work of Bies and Moag (1986), Folger and Greenberg (1985), Greenberg and Tyler (1987), and Organ and Moorman (1993), and a model quite consistent with the view of organizations as collective effort based on implicit contract (Rousseau & Parks, 1992). Moreover, from a purely pragmatic view, we would infer that leaders of organizations must take pains to manage the context of work in such a way as to meet with widely prevalent norms of fairness, if their organizations require volumes of discretionary contributions for survival.

If, on the other hand, the statistical record of associations between work attitudes and OCB is an artifact of their common but independent linkage to underlying dispositions, then both theory and application would have to accord a more central position to “the person.” Such an approach is one with which management science has not traditionally felt comfortable. Not only is it a paradigm generally viewed as having been empirically unavailing, but which would invite all manner of distasteful and invidious distinctions among individuals (Davis-Blake & Pfeffer, 1989). However, there is also the view that management scientists have little to show from organizational research based on dispositional constructs because such research has been theoretically impoverished; it has tended “to draw on personality variables in isolation, lifting them out of their nomological networks, neither building upon nor feeding back to their theoretical underpinnings” (Weiss & Adler, 1990).

At this point some readers may object that this discussion amounts to yet another fruitless form of the “person versus situation” debate, one to be eschewed in favor of the “interactional” approach. However, even to specify a coherent form of such interactions (which are potentially numerous and subtle; Bowers, 1973; Buss, 1987; George, 1992), let alone to implicate the relevant dispositional constructs, is a task that surely could be informed by a review of the available evidence. While it is statistically possible to obtain an important interaction between two variables without either variable showing even a hint of a main effect, this type of interaction is exceedingly rare in psychological research and when found is even more rarely replicated. Nonstatistical forms of interaction–e.g., when two variables feedback upon each other in a dynamic process–should be glimpsed even in cross-sectional research, if it can be assumed that cross-sections varying in time and place capture different stages of the dynamic process. If dispositional constructs are to be given serious analysis in the study of organizations, the rationale for this should not be some inscrutable interaction that lies beyond our power to divine it (which, like any proposition incapable of being refuted, would be unscientific on its face). The case should rest on some patterning of the empirical record.

In any case, the purpose of this review and discussion is not to see if we can “throw out contextual variables,” but to see if it is defensible to believe that reported attitudes about certain dimensions of work context are related to OCB mainly by virtue of some underlying disposition(s). Failing that, we are interested in seeing whether the logic that so far has correctly predicted an association between work attitudes and OCB fares as well in predicting a relationship between personality and OCB; and if not, then, why not?

This review will not take a meta-analytic form. While quite a few studies have looked at personality and OCB, no one personality measure (e.g., extraversion) has figured in very many studies. A meta-analysis that collapses across theoretically different dispositional constructs would not be interpretable, since it might average a very few promising predictors with a greater number of non-predictors. Moreover, among the measures used in OCB research, there is varying degree of overlap among them with respect to personality referents, and it would be difficult to effect a reliable sorting of measures by underlying concepts. The intent here is not to derive an estimate of population relationships, but to derive some sense of just how well personality measures in general have fared in predicting in OCB and, if possible, to see if there are signs of convergence upon those personality constructs that offer most encouragement for a dispositional basis of OCB.

Research Directed Specifically at OCB/Prosocial Behavior

Much of the work on OCB and prosocial organizational behavior has, not surprisingly, tried to draw from the considerable effort directed in social psychology to the study of altruism, or prosocial behavior in general. And much of that study has sought to delineate something along the lines of an “altruistic personality.” Unfortunately, the results of that line of inquiry are replete with inconsistencies (Krebs, 1970; Gergen, Gergen & Meter, 1972; Piliavin & Charng, 1990). What has been more consistent is the program of research, best exemplified in the work of Isen (e.g., 1987), which documents the effect of affective state on prosocial behavior. While this research, much of it carried out in naturalistic settings, has taken the form of manipulating affective state, we have good reason now to think that positive and negative affectivity also represent dispositions (Watson & Clark, 1984; Watson, Clark & Carey, 1988). Moreover, Staw et al. (1986) suggested that positive affectivity is a prime candidate for the dispositional variable that underlies job satisfaction. If positive affective states elicit prosocial behaviors generally, then plausibly positive affectivity as a dispositional variable should predict a positive trend of OCB as reflected in ratings of people’s behavior at work over time and varied situations. Conversely, if negative affect suppresses prosocial behavior (although the relationship here appears to be somewhat more complex), then negative affectivity as a trait should be associated with less frequent rendering of OCB.

At least five studies have looked at the relationship between one or more measures of OCB and measures of positive and/or negative affectivity, and none have yielded correlations greater in absolute value than .20 (excluded are studies in which OCB was self-rated, because any correlations with similarly self-rated positive/negative affectivity would be suspect on grounds of common method variance). Organ & Konovsky (1989) used measures intended to index negative and affective states, but George (1990) argued that, since respondents were instructed to describe “characteristic” states over a period of months, the responses probably reflected stable personal tendencies. Neither Organ and Konovsky, nor George (1990; 1991)–who used measures indexing both state and trait forms of negative and positive affectivity–found appreciable relationships with any form or dimension of OCB.

Table 1. Correlations Between Personality Measures and Organizational

Citizenship Behavior

Altruism Compliance Other

Barrick, Mount & Strauss, 1992

Conscientiousness .23 .30 -.32

Extraversion ns ns ns

Neuroticism ns ns ns

Agreeableness ns ns ns

(Nonsignificant correlations not reported in

secondary source–Borman & Motowidlo,

1993b)

George, 1990

Negative Affectivity -.18

Positive Affectivity -.14

George, 1991

Positive Affectivity .10

Hui, Organ & Crooker, 1993

Achievement Striving (JAS) .00 .26

Impatience/Irritability (JAS) -.05 .09

Konovsky & Organ, 1993

Agreeableness .02 .06 .08

Conscientiousness .08 .15 .08

Equity Sensitivity .01 .06 -.07

Moorman, 1990

Agreeableness .12 .11 .13

Conscientiousness .03 .04 -.02

Organ & Konovsky, 1989

Negative Affectivity -.04 -.11

Positive Affectivity .13 .17

Organ & Lingl, 1992

Agreeableness .09 .02

.19 .20

Conscientiousness .19 .20

.24 .32

Puffer, 1987

n Achievement .13

n Autonomy -.18

Smith, Organ & Near, 1983

Neuroticism -.19 -.13

Extraversion -.07 -.05

Lie Scale -.06 .21

(Lie scale interpreted as surrogate measure

of Conscientiousness)

Three other studies of OCB–Smith, Organ and Near, (1983); Hui, Organ and Crooker (1993); and Barrick, Mount and Strauss (1992)–reported findings worthy of note. Smith et al. included neuroticism and extraversion as potential predictors of OCB. Watson and Clark (1984) suggest that established measures of neuroticism and trait anxiety for the most part mirror the more general underlying dimension of negative affectivity; and it has been suggested that extraversion, on the basis of its tie to frequency and intensity of positive mood states, can be regarded as a surrogate for positive affectivity (Watson & Clark, 1992). Smith et al. found little relationship between either neuroticism or extraversion and either of two dimensions of OCB (neuroticism did correlate modestly with general job satisfaction, which in turn correlated with the Altruism dimension of OCB, but the relationship between neuroticism and Altruism was nil when controlling for satisfaction). Hui et al.(1993), using the Jenkins Activity Scale (JAS), found no evidence of a link between the Impatience/Irritability subscale of the JAS and either of two dimensions of OCB. (However, they did find a connection to OCB from the Achievement Striving subscale, the implications of which are further noted below.) Barrick et al. found neither the extraversion nor neuroticism (emotional stability) dimensions of the “Big Five” model of personality (McCrae & Costa, 1987) to correlate reliably with any of three measures of OCB.

To summarize, the evidence is decidedly scant that dispositional tendencies relating to affectivity have much to do with OCB. George (1992) contends that positive and negative affectivity are important as indirect determinants of OCB because they predispose persons toward affective states, which–as a function of both disposition and situation–directly determine OCB forms of contribution. It might well be that immediate mood state has something to do with specific occurrences of OCB–although this would be quite difficult to ascertain in nonexperimental field studies, since supervisory or peer ratings of OCB presumably reflect long-term trends and aggregations of behaviors, while mood states are short-term. But if affective states do explain very much of OCB, then it would appear that affective states at work are influenced more by the work environment than by trait affectivity; otherwise we would see more substantial correlations between the latter and OCB measures.

The foregoing data and arguments do not, of course, refute the idea that trait affectivity could account for substantial variance in measures of job attitudes. However, even if that be the case, it would seem that trait affectivity is at best locking into something within job attitude measures that has little connection to OCB. Conceivably satisfaction measures capture some mix of affect (or feelings) and “cognitive appraisal” of one’s circumstances (Campbell, 1986), and satisfaction measures do pick up on respondent feelings that have a dispositional basis, but perhaps it is the “appraisal” referent that bears more strongly on OCB.

OCB Research Based on the “Big Five”

Personality researchers striving for a comprehensive but parsimonious descriptive taxonomy have in recent times converged on the “Big Five” model. This model, dating from Tupes and Christal (1961), appears consistent with analyses of natural language adjectives and with a large variety of measures (Norman, 1963; Digman, 1990; McCrae & Costa, 1987). Two of the factors, extraversion and neuroticism, strongly implicate emotional predispositions (positive and negative affectivity, respectively); another, openness to experience is thought to amplify the experience of both forms of affect (McCrae & Costa, 1991). The remaining factors, agreeableness and conscientiousness, are not in themselves affectively-toned but could well relate indirectly to subjective well-being via the patterns of behavior to which they give rise (McCrae & Costa, 1991). And interestingly both factors suggest obvious tendencies toward one or another of the factors found in measures of OCB.

Agreeableness loads on such opposite adjective pairs as uncooperative-helpful, stingy-generous, selfish-selfless, and rude-courteous. In essence, it describes a personality factor having to do with how well a person typically “gets along with” those around him. One could hardly imagine a more aptly defined personality counterpart to the form of OCB dubbed “altruism,” or the constructive gestures that target specific individuals (OCBI: Williams & Anderson, 1991). Moreover, one could well imagine that “agreeable” people, because they get along well with work associates and generate reciprocal liking and esteem, would derive more satisfaction from work experience than persons not so agreeable.

Conscientiousness is marked empirically by such adjectives as neat, punctual, careful, self-disciplined, and reliable. Such traits sound very much like the items measuring OCB of a more impersonal sort–punctuality, attendance, rule compliance, productive use of time, care for organizational property. And it would not be surprising if such a person garnered the respect, plaudits, and favored treatment that would add to satisfaction.

While Agreeableness does associate strongly with satisfaction with coworkers (Organ & Lingl, 1992), the correlations with Altruism do not exceed .20 in five different samples. The Conscientiousness factor fares somewhat better in predicting the more impersonal OCB, but the sample-size weighted zero-order correlation (based on five studies) is still well under .30. Interestingly, the Organ and Lingl studies indicate that Conscientiousness is negatively related to job satisfaction (especially satisfaction with coworkers) when controlling for Agreeableness; and the beta coefficient for Conscientiousness in predicting OCB is higher with satisfaction in the regression equation than without satisfaction. This (possibly quirky) finding raises the possibility that Conscientiousness or some related characteristic and satisfaction act to suppress each other when either alone is used to predict the impersonal form of OCB.

Hui et al. found the Achievement Striving (AS) subscale of the JAS to correlate .26 with a peer-rated measure of the “compliance” or impersonal form of OCB. The content of the AS scale could reasonably be interpreted as having much in common with Conscientiousness. Also, Smith et al. (1983) found a correlation of .21 between a four-item “Lie” scale and impersonal OCB. The items of the Lie scale could be taken as a crude surrogate measure of conscientiousness rather than an index of socially desirable responding. Also, the .21 correlation is all the more striking given the low reliability (Cronbach alpha = .44); the correlation corrected for attenuation due to unreliability is .34.

Relevant Data from Other Research

As it happens, quite a bit of research has of late reexamined the link between personality and “performance.” Researchers active in this enterprise contend that the historically (pre-1980) unimpressive validity evidence for traits as job performance predictors was due to simplistic conceptions of the “criterion,” i.e., performance. In the effort to fine-tune the match between specific traits and specific criteria, these researchers have defined dimensions of performance that pose varying degrees of similarity to OCB. Moreover, they find somewhat more encouraging results when letting the structure of traits emerge from the data, as opposed to taking as sacred the factorial structure from global frameworks such as the Big Five.

Barrick and Mount (1991) reviewed the empirical record of personality-criterion validity coefficients, classifying specific personality measures on a judgmental basis into the Big Five framework. Of the 191 scales reviewed, 30 or more appeared to fit reasonably well into each of the Big Five dimensions, except for Agreeableness, which provided a fit for 29; only 28 (“Miscellaneous”) could not be confidently placed. Of the Big Five measures (or surrogate measures), Conscientiousness showed the highest and most consistent validity coefficients for the criterion of job proficiency; raw averaged r’s were in the low ‘teens, correlations corrected for attenuation were in the low .20’s for five different occupational groups. When subjective ratings provided the criterion, the validities for Conscientiousness were appreciably higher (.15 uncorrected, .26 corrected) than was the case with objective indicators (.10 uncorrected, .14 corrected). These findings, despite the rather modest absolute levels of the correlations, are of note because: (1) subjective ratings of performance are almost certainly colored by impressions that raters have of ratee OCB activity (MacKenzie, Podsakoff & Fetter, 1991; Borman & Motowidlo, 1993a; Werner, 1994); and (2) the personality measures lumped into the Conscientiousness category were probably a very mixed bag, with varying degrees of overlap with other constructs and varying degrees of emphasis upon more specific markers of the more general Conscientiousness dimension; moreover, Barrick and Mount (1991) chose not to derive a predictor composite when multiple measures of a Big Five dimension were available within a single study, choosing the more conservative approach of averaging the validities of individual scales. Their results lead one to believe that at least within the larger construct space of Conscientiousness, some portion of it has a good fit to OCB.

Hough (1992) reports the results of a similar attempt (Kamp & Hough, 1986) to classify personality measures used to predict performance, deriving a structure that maximized correlations between scales placed in the same category and mimimized average correlations between measures in different categories. Kamp and Hough also developed a taxonomy of criteria, which included job proficiency, training success, educational success, commendable behavior, and law abiding behavior. “Commendable behavior” has much in common with the more impersonal or compliant forms of OCB, although it also incorporates measures defined by disciplinary actions and reprimands (or the absence thereof). The patterning of results reported by Hough (1992) suggested that the Big Five “confounds Dependability, Achievement, Potency, and Affiliation” (Hough, 1992, p. 147). That is, the Big Five’s “conscientiousness” includes achievement and dependability; Hough argues that these are distinct constructs and should not be collapsed into one. In Hough’s data, Achievement had a mean (uncorrected) r of .33 with measures of commendable behavior (vs. .23 for Dependability). Overall, Achievement (which in Kamp and Hough’s classification combines aspects of Conscientiousness with aspects of Hogan’s (1986) Ambition construct) emerged as generally the best predictor of performance criteria, although it predicted “commendable behavior” better than job proficiency.

Borman and Motowidlo (1993b) report findings from the “Project A” (Campbell, 1990) study, based on 8000 early career soldiers, that support the case for linkage between personality and “contextual” (vs. “core technical proficiency”) measures of performance. The personality factor Achievement correlated only .10 with the technical task performance criterion, but. 18 with contextual performance; Dependability also correlated .10 with task performance, but .30 with contextual performance. Borman and Motowidlo also cite data from an unpublished study (Motowidlo & Van Scotter, 1993), including a correlation of .36 between the personality measure “work orientation” (presumably a variant of the Achievement dimension as defined by Hough) and contextual performance and an r of .30 between Dependability and contextual performance.

The Hogan Personality Inventory (Hogan, 1983) is based on the Big Five framework (although in the HPI the extraversion dimension is split between sociability and ambition), but Hogan has empirically derived from subscales (“homogeneous item composites”) of the HPI predictors of specific performance criteria. Hogan, Hogan and Busch (1984) derived a predictor of “service orientation”–the disposition to be helpful, thoughtful, considerate, and cooperative–as an aspect of nontechnical performance among nursing aides. The index so derived was most closely associated with the Likeability and Adjustment dimensions of the HPI, which translate roughly into the Agreeableness and Emotional Stability or Neuroticism factors of the Big Five. Hogan and Hogan (1989) also derived an Employee Reliability scale, empirically developed to predict rule observance, conformance to social expectations and commitments, and respect for authority. The items empirically derived from the HPI for this scale result in high scorers described as mature, thoughtful, responsible, and somewhat inhibited, and low scorers characterized as hostile, impulsive, self-absorbed, and insensitive. Borman and Motowidlo (1993b) report nontrivial (i.e., [is greater than].20) correlations between this scale and independent ratings of punctuality, customer service, and teamwork.

Discussion

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Overall, the “scorecard” for predicting OCB from measures of personality might be taken as disappointing. Many of the correlations are both trivial and nonreliable, such that any idea of a dispositional basis for OCB seems unsupportable. However, a closer look at the patterning of the findings, along with some pertinent qualifications, might suggest otherwise.

First, the most disappointing findings come from studies that take their personality measures unaltered from the Big Five or other factorially-derived frameworks. We can see now why this is not necessarily the most promising strategy.

Descriptive measures of personality derived by factor analysis enter into the service of scale reliability rather than criterion prediction. The problem, as noted by Hogan (1991), is that “interesting psychological phenomena are usually complex rather than thematically unified”. The construct space named Conscientiousness in the Big Five houses a number of more specific traits or “facets” (Costa, McCrae & Dye, 1991) that happen to correlate better with each other than with similarly specific traits that fall outside that space. If we seek a purely descriptive measure of what those traits filed with Conscientiousness all have in common, then we do well to use a measure based on this higher-order factor. Our measure will have high reliability and be easy to interpret. But it might not predict a job behavior criterion very well. Some aspects of Conscientiousness might relate to OCB, others might not; the same could be true for other dimensions of the Big Five, such as Agreeableness.

On the other hand, good predictors of job behavior might better be derived by judicious, non-random sampling from the specific facets underlying the Big Five. Indeed, this is exactly what we find in the work of Hough (1992), Hogan, Hogan, and Busch (1984), Hogan and Hogan (1989), and Borman and Motowidlo (1993). What they have done is derive empirically not “dimensions” but trait constellations–Achievement, Work Orientation, Service Orientation, Employee Reliability–that predict specific nontechnical task performance. We seem to have taken as a given that we must use the same method (factor analysis) and same desired scale attribute (maximum reliability and thematic integrity associated with factorial purity), when in fact our interests lie in predicting well-defined behaviors in a circumscribed setting. Pursuit of the latter will not necessarily yield either simple constructs nor measures useful in other domains, but could very well shore up our conviction that dispositional variables have much to do with OCB.

We should also bear in mind that the prototypical study of personality and OCB uses self-ratings to measure personality and supervisor ratings to assess OCB. This paradigm captures only one of the two meanings of “personality” discussed by Hogan (1991), i.e., personality as the structures, dynamics, and propensities inside a person. Not so often do we look at personality in the other sense, which is social reputation, or recurring regularities in a person’s behavior as noted by observers. An exception is Mount, Barrick and Strauss (1994). They found that subjects’ personality ratings obtained from sources other than self-ratings added significant incremental variance in performance critera beyond that accounted for by self-ratings. In fact, for Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness, coworker personality ratings were better predictors of supervisor’s performance rating than were self-reports of personality; similarly, supervisor personality ratings of the subject were better predictors of coworker’s performance rating of the subject than was the subject’s self-described personality. Thus, it appears that research on personality and OCB using self-ratings understates the extent to which personality as social reputation is related to OCB.

Note also that Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, the two Big Five dimensions that one would most logically connect to OCB, are hardly value-free markers when used to describe one’s self or one’s behavior. We would not be surprised if self-ratings of the corresponding adjective-scale items exhibited a compressed distribution skewed to the more self-flattering pole, with consequent attenuation of their predictive power. Indeed, McCrae and Costa (1991) found higher correlations with behavior criteria when peer ratings were used to measure the personality variables.

A possible limitation with measures based on the Big Five is that they have more to do with temperament than motives. Or, phrased differently, Big Five-type scales better describe styles of behavior than the goal orientations of behavior. Consider for example the OCB category of Altruism, or helping specific individuals in the workplace. Most of us upon reflection could recall people of varying temperaments who have done a good turn for us in our jobs. Some come to our aid in a gracious, gentle manner; others provide equally valuable help in a detached, cool fashion; others almost seem to be playing the role of a dominant parent taking care of a ineffectual toddler. Some people seem to help us out of empathy; others because they enjoy doing the activity itself that renders assistance; and still others help as a means of establishing status (i.e., the “Most Valuable Player” in the group). No doubt some motives and styles are more admirable than others, and undoubtedly different aims and manners of helping influence our attraction to the helper, but organizationally the contributions rendered need not be vitiated in quality nor diminished in frequency by motive or manner.

One must also wonder, as did Thorne (1989) and McAdams (1992) how well existing personality measures capture the “conditional patterns” of personality. As McAdams (1992) noted, “conditional patterns are explicitly contextualized personality characteristics, and they are often revealed in people’s open-ended descriptions of themselves. They may be contrasted to such nonconditional attributes as general traits”. Consider, for example, the substantial support for relating perceived fairness to OCB. Perhaps an interesting facet of personality has to do with how people react to a sense of unfair treatment. Some people might be utterly unfazed; others might do a slow burn, but not allow this to affect their work behavior; still others might contribute as much as ever, but actively voice their indignation and try to change the system; and then some simply elect to withhold all contributions except those required in the job or those certain to be recognized and recompensed. Granted, this approach sounds much like “interaction”; and indeed much of the research cited in Table 1 has in fact routinely examined cross-product terms involving perceived fairness and personality and found no additional explained variance in OCB. But, as Buss (1987) pointed out, person-situation interactions “are not well captured by ANOVA solutions”. A dispositional construct conceived and suitably measured in conditional terms might allow us to get around the limitations imposed by conventional statistical analysis.

For now, if we had to stake our hopes on one measurable facet of the person that explains appreciable variance in OCB, the data suggest that it would have something to do with the Big Five’s Conscientiousness, properly qualified to include aspects of achievement-striving, activity level, and affiliation. To use Guion’s (1993) metaphor, perhaps what we really have in mind is not an element or an atom, but a compound or molecule, i.e., four parts personality dimension A, two parts B, one part C. Perhaps in our study of the chemistry of personality in the workplace we are too hung up on single elements and underappreciate the richness of the compounds derived therefrom.

Acknowledgment: Portions of this article are based on a paper, “Personality and Organizational Citizenship Behavior: A Not-Very-Encouraging Scorecard Thus Far,” presented at symposium “Personality at Work,” 1993 meetings of Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, San Francisco.

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