Organizational citizenship behavior and performance in a university setting

Organizational citizenship behavior and performance in a university setting

Skarlicki, Daniel P

A primary emphasis of human resource management (HRM) is to improve the effectiveness of an organization’s human resources using the processes of selection, performance appraisal, and training (Latham & Fry, 1998). Historically, HRM research has focused on behaviours in the work place that have direct implications for enhancing the productivity of the individual and reducing costs to the organization. However, an exclusive emphasis on such direct linkages may fail to take into account the informal and discretionary individual behaviours that can benefit an organization (Katz, 1964). Moreover, management tools of formal organizations such as employment agreements, job descriptions, and organizational charts usually fail to cover all the contingencies and relationships that emerge in the course of one’s work (Stewart, 1985).

The study of organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB) explores the nature of discretionary behaviours in the work place. OCB emphasizes the social context of the work environment in addition to the technical nature of the job. OCB has been defined in terms of prosocial behaviour (Brief & Motowidlo, 1986; Puffer, 1987), altruism (Rushton, 1980) and service orientation (Hogan, Hogan, & Busch, 1984). Organ (1988) defined OCB as individual behaviours in the work place that are discretionary and supportive of the collective interests of the organization. These behaviours usually are not accounted for nor monitored by the organization’s reward system, but they provide the organization with the adaptation and innovation that is necessary for long-term survival and growth (Graham, 1986; Katz, 1964). Examples of OCB include acts of helpfulness, gestures of goodwill, and cooperation among organizational members, as well as among members and customers/clients.

Research on the dimensionality of OCB has generated conflicting results. Some researchers have identified as many as four (e.g., Karambayya, 1989) and five (e.g., Moorman, 1991) dimensions, including altruism (helping another person), general compliance (conscientiousness), courtesy (touching base with people before taking action), sportsmanship (tolerating impositions) and civic virtue (participating in organizational governance). These five dimensions, however, may not be applicable to all work settings. For example, MacKenzie, Podsakoff, and Fetter (1991), in a study of OCB among insurance agents, did not include the conscientiousness dimension because it was seen as not applying to the insurance sales context. Moreover, other studies (e.g., Organ & Lingl, 1992) that have used an instrument designed to tap five dimensions did not find support for the five-factor model. Williams (1988) argued that OCB would be better and more universally defined by two dimensions, namely, (1) OCB that benefits the organization in general (OCBO), such as volunteering to serve on committees, and (2) OCB that is directed primarily at individuals within the organization (OCBI), such as altruism and interpersonal helping. There appears to be emerging support for a two-factor model (e.g., McNeely & Meglino, 1992, Organ & Konovsky, 1989; Smith, Organ, & Near, 1983; Werner, 1994; Williams, 1988; Williams & Anderson, 1991). Hence, the two-factor structure of OCB warrants investigation.

OCB has been criticized for being neither well-defined nor well-measured (Organ, 1988). This may be due in part to the fact that what is considered OCB in one organization may not be considered OCB in another (Karambayya, 1989). Moreover, differences among organizations exist regarding tasks, norms, and other influences of climate and culture (Schneider, 1990). If this is true, HRM departments would, as Organ (1988) suggested, have to develop site-specific measures of OCB for their organization before they could consider the inclusion of OCB theories in their selection, training, and performance appraisal systems. Therefore, the question of whether OCB generalizes across organizations needs to be addressed.

Previous research has found that OCB is positively related to organizational (e.g., MacKenzie & Podsakoff, 1992) and group level performance (e.g., George & Bettenhausen, 1990; Graham, 1986; Karambayya, 1989; Smith, Organ, & Near, 1983). However, at the individual level of analysis, the data are unclear. Smith et al. proposed that OCB may contribute more to another person’s performance than it does to one’s own “and may even have the effect of sacrificing some portion of one’s immediate individual output” (p. 654).

In contrast to this proposal, there are both theoretical and empirical reasons to hypothesize a positive relationship between engaging in OCB and an evaluation of an individual’s job performance. Social exchange theory (e.g., Blau, 1964) posits that “giving and receiving material or intangible resources is at least partially predicated on the expectation of return” (Uehara, 1990, p. 532). Hence, a recipient of benefits may feel morally obligated to recompense the donor. One’s implicit theory, therefore, might be that if a person takes extra steps to help his/her institution, the institution will take steps to help the person in return. Thus, an assistant professor may believe that by engaging in activities such as serving on committees, his or her low number of publications would be downplayed during a tenure decision. Similarly, an assistant professor may conclude that by actively looking for ways to help colleagues (e.g., critiquing a colleague’s paper), one’s colleagues will look for ways to help him or her.

Empirical support for a positive relationship between engaging in OCB and an evaluation of an individual’s job performance was obtained by MacKenzie et al. (1991), who found that managers took extrarole contributions into account in their ratings of a sales agent’s performance, and hence reciprocated a subordinate’s OCB in the evaluation process. Similarly, Werner (1994) reported that performance ratings assigned to ratees with high levels of extrarole role behaviour displayed more halo than ratings given to ratees with neutral levels of extrarole behaviour. Finally, Puffer (1987) found a positive link between OCB and individual performance, as measured objectively by commission sales. Taken together, theoretical and empirical research supports a positive relationship between OCB and an individual’s performance outcomes.

Understanding the relationship between OCB and various outcomes is important from both the organization’s and the individual’s perspective, especially if the relationship is negative. Penalizing a person for engaging in OCB would be ironic if OCB enhances the organization in meaningful ways. For example, OCB directed at the institution, such as volunteering to serve on committees, requires that an individual contributes time to benefit the organization that otherwise might be directed towards increasing the individual’s own performance. Thus an inadvertent message to the individual may be to devalue teamwork that benefits the organization if his or her individual performance is going to be viewed as less than satisfactory. OCB directed towards one’s colleagues, such as interpersonal helping, might also detract from the time required for task completion, and may therefore result in the individual’s performance being appraised as unsatisfactory.

The purpose of this study was threefold, namely, to test the situational specificity hypothesis regarding OCB, to establish whether a two-factor structure underlies OCB, and to investigate whether engaging in OCB enhances or detracts from one’s performance, as defined by number of publications, teacher ratings, and length of service. Length of service was included as a dependent variable in that it is a correlate of an individual’s fit with the organization. Research has shown that organizational members leave organizations (Mobley, 1982; Porter & Steers, 1973) based on the degree of fit they experience. Hesketh (1993) argued that length of time the person interacts with his or her organization is an indicator of work adjustment. The hypotheses of this study were: (1) OCB in one institution is viewed differently by members of another organization; (2) OCB is a two-dimensional construct; and (3) there is a positive relationship between engaging in OCB and an individual’s performance outcomes.



The sample consisted of 71 faculty from the business schools of two universities and the psychology department of a third university, all located in Ontario, Canada. The number of participants from each university was 44, 14, and 13, respectively. The total number of male and female faculty who participated in this study were 52 and 19, respectively. Forty-six faculty were tenured and 25 were nontenured.


Fourty-four faculty from the first business school were asked to identify behaviours which define OCB in a university. The critical incident technique (Flanagan, 1954) was used because it facilitates the development of a content-valid measure of performance (Levine, Ash, Hall, & Sistrunk, 1983).

Before being asked for critical incidents, each faculty member was given the following three definitions of OCB: (1) discretionary acts by the employee that are not formally rewarded by the organization’s reward system, but contribute to the effective functioning of the organization (Organ, 1988); (2) innovative and spontaneous activity that goes beyond role prescriptions which are necessary for effective organizational functioning (Katz, 1964); and (3) positive social acts carried out to produce and maintain the well-being and integrity of others such as helping, sharing, donating, cooperating, and volunteering (Brief & Motowidlo, 1986). Each faculty member contributed a maximum of five incidents.

The incidents were reduced to 83 behavioural items when the two researchers eliminated incidents that were duplicates. The items were then written in the form of a 5-point Likert-type scale and returned to the faculty for them to evaluate the extent to which each item constituted a good or poor definition of OCB at their university. Ratings of the 83 incidents were also obtained from faculty at the second business school (n ‘ 14) and a psychology department (n = 13) of a third university. The ratings from the three universities were then compared.

A Behavioural Observation Scale (BOS) (Latham & Wexley, 1977) was developed based on the ratings of the 83 items (n=71). It consisted of 12 items from the 83-item questionnaire that had a standard deviation of less than 1.05 and a mean greater than 3.60. These 12 items were chosen because there was considerably less agreement among faculty at all three schools regarding the relative importance of those items beyond the top 12, as measured by the items’ standard deviations (sd > 1.20).

Peers were asked to assess their colleague’s OCB using the BOS. To be included in this phase of the research, a faculty member had to have been a member of the university for at least one year, so as to have been able to observe the behaviour of colleagues. Eighty-three faculty members from three universities were sampled, and 71 participated in the peer appraisal, for an 85% response rate. The peer was nominated by the appraisee as a colleague who was knowledgeable of his/her job performance. Peer assessments were used because they have been shown to be a reliable and valid source of appraisals (Fox, Ben-Nahum, & Yinon, 1989; McEvoy & Buller, 1987). All evaluators were assured anonymity and were told that the information was to be used for research purposes only.

Performance was measured by the number of publications, student ratings of the faculty member’s teaching, and years of employment. The number of publications was operationalized as the average annual number of refereed journal articles, chapters in books, books, and publications in conference proceedings over a five-year period, namely 1987-1991. Although a citation count from the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) has been used by some researchers (e.g., Gomez-Mejia & Balkin, 1992), it was not used in this study because there is a time lag before scholarly work is recorded in the SSCI (Cole & Cole, 1967). In the present sample, over 25% (n=18) of the faculty had five or fewer years on the job. Of these, 90% (n=16) had an average of 1.1 refereed publications per year, but had no citations recorded in SSCI. Student ratings of faculty were operationalized as the average of the annual overall teaching ratings reported during the same five-year period. It was used as a measure of teaching effectiveness. Number of years of employment was used as a measure of the individual’s fit with the organization.

Generalizability of OCB

A Spearman rank order correlation (rho = .65, p 3.60; sd

The mean and standard deviation of the ratings of the 12 OCB items by the faculty at the two business schools were 3.98(.58) and 3.66(.95), respectively. A two-tailed t test revealed that these means were not statistically different from each other. Thus, what the faculty in the first business school considered to be behavioural indicators of OCB were also considered to be behavioural indicators of OCB by the faculty in the second business school.

Similarly, a Spearman rank order correlation (rho = .59, p


Confirmatory factor analysis using LISREL VII (Joreskog & Sorbom, 1989) was used to examine the adequacy of a two-factor model for the 12-item OCB peer evaluations (n = 71). One item (“Faculty member hosts a party in his or her home was not included in the analysis, because the researchers could not agree to which factor the item belonged. The 11 remaining items were estimated on their hypothesized factors. Factor loadings are reported in Table 1 along with the item means and standard deviations.

The chi-square statistic for this model was 70.52 (df = 43, p > .01) for a chi-square/df ratio of 1.62. The Tucker and Lewis (1973) goodness-of-fit index (TLI), which is a measure of how well the model accounts for the sample variance and covariances, was .89.

The application of confirmatory factor analysis to small samples is frowned upon because of its effect on the chi-square statistic as a goodness-of-fit indicator (Joreskog & Sorbom, 1989). However, the use of incremental goodness-of-fit indices, specifically the TLI, is robust for samples as small as 25 (Marsh, Balla, & McDonald, 1988). Based on these findings, we relied on the TLI as a primary index of model fit and concluded that the model approximated the data reasonably well.

Factor 1 (OCBO), consisting of the first five items shown in Table 1, represents an individual’s tendency to be a good citizen to the institution. It includes activities such as fund raising, taking an active interest in creating good working relationships between the organization and outside agencies, and cultivating working relationships with the business community in order to do such things as developing future research sites. Factor 2 (OCBI), consisting of six items, refers to helping colleagues and students.


The coefficient alphas of the scales measuring OCBO and OCBI were .85 and .72, respectively. The reliability of publications and the student ratings of a faculty member’s teaching effectiveness (odd vs. even years) were .78 and .96, respectively.


A series of ANOVAs revealed that there was no significant difference on any of the performance variables among the two business schools and the department of psychology. The results of the correlation analysis are shown in Table 2. OCB directed at the institution (OCBO) correlated negatively with number of publications (r = -.33, p


The importance of this study is threefold. First, the study suggests that items defining OCB are generalizable across institutions that are in the same industry. Whether the same items that define OCB can be used across dissimilar industries requires further research.

Second, this study revealed that OCB, even when tailored to a specific institution, is a two-dimensional construct. The macro institutional component and the micro interpersonal component appears to generalize across different industries. This statement is based on similar findings obtained by Smith et al. (1983), who studied 422 bank employees, Organ and Konovsky (1989), who studied 369 hospital employees, and Williams and Anderson (1991), who studied 127 technical/professional employees. They, too, found two distinct types of OCB, namely, OCB directed at the organization and OCB directed at individuals within or related to the organization. Both Smith et al. (1983) and Organ and Konovsky (1989) used an OCB questionnaire developed by Smith et al. consisting of 16 items, to be completed by supervisors. Williams and Anderson (1991) used supervisory ratings of a questionnaire consisting of items taken from Bateman and Organ (1983), Graham (1986), O’Reilly and Chatman (1986), Organ (1988), and Smith et al. (1983). It is noteworthy that the same finding emerged in the present study despite the relatively small sample. The consistency of this finding across samples, sample sizes, measures, and appraisers suggests that OCB is a two-dimensional construct in North America.

Third, and perhaps the most significant finding in this study, is that certain types of OCB may contribute to, while others may detract from, an individual’s performance. Faculty in North America are evaluated with regard to a tenure decision on their research productivity and teaching effectiveness. Greater emphasis is often placed on the former criterion than the latter. The present study suggests that a focus on institutional OCB may be detrimental to a person’s research productivity.

OCB directed at colleagues and coworkers (OCBI) was positively correlated with number of publications. This finding is consistent with social exchange theory (Blau, 1964) which states that helping behaviours are reciprocated by other members of the organization. In a university setting this may be evidenced by faculty critiquing and reviewing each other’s research and exchanging research ideas which may increase a person’s publication potential.

The issue of reciprocity requires additional research attention. The perception that one has benefited from the receipt of OCB is measurable, and is potentially related to performance. Hence a norm of reciprocity (e.g., Gouldner, 1960) as a mediator of OCB in organizations is an empirical question and should be tested in future research.

That there was a negative relationship between OCB directed at the organization and years on the job suggests that new members of the organization are more likely to participate in these extrarole behaviours than are their senior colleagues. Organ (1990) proposed that OCB is largely a “controlled” behaviour. An individual is likely to commence a relationship with an organization with the belief that their extrarole behaviour will be reciprocated by the organization. This presumption is likely to continue until the individual’s trust is breached by an organizational experience. If this belief is violated repeatedly, the individual is likely to reappraise the type of exchange with the organization. A disconfirmation of social exchange leads to a redefinition of the relationship. “Gestures of OCB that might otherwise have been proffered in unconstrained fashion are withheld or extracted grudgingly’ (Organ, 1990, p. 67). Hence, a fruitful line of research stemming from this finding would be to investigate ways that organizations encourage or inadvertently discourage OCB so that this situation can be corrected.


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