Organizational Citizenship Behavior: Benefits and Best Practices

Organizational Citizenship Behavior: Benefits and Best Practices
Last Updated: December 5, 2023

Organizational success extends beyond mere adherence to job descriptions and allocated task. One key characteristic that sets high-performing firms apart from others is organizational citizenship behavior. Organizational citizenship behaviour refers to those optional, voluntary actions that go above and beyond the job specifications and advance the success and well-being of the company.

This article serves as a roadmap for organizations aspiring to unlock the full potential of organizational citizenship behavior.


Organizational citizenship behaviour was first defined by Dennis Organ in 1988. He defined it as 'an individual behavior which is not rewarded by a formal reward system… but that, when combined with the same behavior in a group, results in effectiveness.'

The Academy of Innovative HR (AIHR) defined organizational citizenship behaviour as a term used to describe all the positive and constructive employee actions and behaviours that are not part of their formal job description. It is everything that workers voluntarily do to help their co-workers and advance the interests of the company as a whole.

Similarly, Van Dyne, Cummings, and McLean Parks (1995) defined organizational citizenship behavior as individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and that, in the aggregate, promotes the effective functioning of the organization.

Many definitions of organizational citizenship behavior emphasize that it is voluntary and discretionary, going above and beyond formal employment requirements and not being specifically recognized by the organization's official procedures.

Related: ​Organisational citizen behaviour: Everything you need to know

Business Case for Organizational Citizenship Behaviour


A growing body of research consistently demonstrates that organizational citizenship behaviour has a positive effect on many business outcomes. Below is an overview of key research-backed arguments supporting the business case for fostering organizational citizenship behaviour.

1. Enhanced Productivity and Performance

Studies, such as those conducted by Organ and Ryan (1995), have shown a positive correlation between organizational citizenship behaviour and organizational performance. Workers who participate in organizational citizenship behaviour enhance the organization's general efficacy and productivity, which improves performance outcomes.

  • A meta-analysis of 81 studies found a significant positive correlation between organizational citizenship behaviour and organizational productivity (Rho = 0.44). This indicates a strong relationship between organizational citizenship behaviour and organizational productivity. Overall, promoting organizational citizenship behaviour within an organization can lead to improved productivity.
  • A study of 114 manufacturing firms revealed that organizational citizenship behaviour was positively associated with unit-level productivity (β = 0.23). According to this research, businesses that support and prioritize organizational citizenship behaviour should anticipate increases in production at the individual unit level.
  • A study of over 10,000 employees across 35 countries found that organizational citizenship behaviour was positively related to individual job performance (r = 0.32). This study emphasizes the value of organizational citizenship behaviour in the workplace by indicating that workers who demonstrate this behaviour outperform others in their positions.

2. Improved Employee Engagement and Retention

Research by Williams and Anderson (1991) and Organ and Konovsky (1989) indicates a negative relationship between organizational citizenship behaviour and the desire to leave. Workers who participate in organizational citizenship behaviour are more likely to remain with the company, which lowers turnover.

  • A study of 243 managers found that organizational citizenship behaviour was positively associated with employee engagement (β = 0.42). This indicates that organizational citizenship behaviour and employee engagement are positively correlated, suggesting that managers with greater organizational citizenship behaviour levels are more likely to have engaged staff members.
  • A meta-analysis of 103 studies found that organizational citizenship behaviour was negatively related to employee turnover intentions (r = -0.25). This suggests that employees who demonstrate higher levels of organizational citizenship behavior are also more likely to have lower turnover intentions.
  • A study of over 100,000 employees found that organizational citizenship behaviour was positively associated with employee satisfaction (r = 0.51). This suggests that higher levels of organizational citizenship behaviour are associated with higher levels of employee happiness. It also shows a strong positive relationship between organizational citizenship behaviour and employee satisfaction.

3. Strengthened Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

Organizational citizenship behavior has a positive impact on customer relations. Employees who engage in organizational citizenship behaviour contribute to better customer service, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty (Podsakoff et al., 2000).

  • A study of 235 service units found that organizational citizenship behaviour was positively associated with customer satisfaction (β = 0.37). This suggests the presence of a positive correlation between organizational citizenship behaviour and customer satisfaction and that higher organizational citizenship behaviour levels are associated with better customer satisfaction levels.
  • A study of over 2,000 hotel employees found that organizational citizenship behaviour was positively related to customer loyalty (β = 0.21). This suggests that there is a positive correlation between organizational citizenship behaviour and customer loyalty, with higher organizational citizenship behaviour levels being associated with higher levels of customer loyalty.
  • A meta-analysis of 52 studies found that organizational citizenship behaviour was positively associated with organizational reputation (r = 0.48). This suggests that organizational citizenship behaviour and organizational reputation have a strong positive association, with greater organizational citizenship behaviour levels being associated with a better organizational reputation.

Organizations that cultivate an OCB culture stand to gain a great deal in terms of higher financial performance, strengthened customer satisfaction, increased productivity, and improved staff engagement. Cultivating organizational citizenship behaviour as a strategic lever to achieve sustainable success should be an organization's top priority.

Related: Activities for Employee Engagement

What are the 5 types of organizational citizenship behavior?

1. Altruism

In an organizational setting, altruism occurs when staff members voluntarily offer support or guidance to their peers when they face obstacles or duties linked to their jobs. Studies, most notably those conducted by Podsakoff et al. (2000), highlight the role that altruism plays in improving job satisfaction and team cohesion.

Altruistic behaviour is successfully implemented in organizations that foster a culture that values cooperation and teamwork. Acknowledging and promoting acts of kindness enhances employee camaraderie and positive morale, in addition to creating a supportive work environment.

2. Conscientiousness

Within the context of organizational citizenship behaviour, conscientiousness is defined as actions that go above and beyond the minimal effort needed to perform job duties. It demonstrates a dedication to upholding high standards of work performance.

According to studies by Bolino and Turnley (2005) and Podsakoff et al. (2000), conscientious organizational citizenship behaviour is linked to better organizational performance. Conscientious behaviour is more likely to be implemented successfully when an organization fosters an excellent culture and appreciates workers who take initiative and aim for high standards. This kind of organizational citizenship behaviour raises the effectiveness of the organization as a whole in addition to enhancing individual contributions.

3. Sportsmanship

In organizational citizenship behaviour, sportsmanship entails keeping a good outlook despite obstacles and abstaining from criticizing unimportant things.

Research demonstrates the relationship between good sportsmanship and enhanced team dynamics, which lowers conflict at work (Williams and Anderson, 1991). Businesses that have a culture of positivity and resiliency, where staff members assist one another and face obstacles head-on, are more likely to see sportsmanship used successfully. Recognition and positive reinforcement are essential for maintaining these actions over time.

4. Courtesy

Being a kind, respectful, and considerate employee means showing regard for your co-workers. Empirical studies, like the one carried out by Organ and Ryan (1995), indicate a connection between enhanced job satisfaction and civility in interpersonal situations.

Courtesy is successfully implemented in organizations that prioritize the well-being of their employees and foster a healthy working culture. Support from the leadership and setting an example are essential for promoting polite behaviour and fostering an atmosphere where respect for one another is valued.

5. Civic Virtue

In the context of organizational citizenship behaviour, civic virtue is exhibited by staff members who actively participate in decision-making procedures and show a feeling of accountability for organizational issues. Research by Organ and Ryan (1995) emphasizes the link between increased organizational success and civic virtue.

Organizations that encourage employee ownership and involvement are more likely to adopt civic virtue successfully. The effectiveness of civic virtue is attributed to inclusive decision-making procedures and open communication, which create an environment where workers genuinely identify with the organization's goals and core principles.

Related: ​How To Develop An Employee Engagement Plan

5 Crucial steps to adopting organizational citizenship behavior

Adopting organizational citizenship behavior involves a strategic approach to fostering a culture that encourages voluntary contributions and positive engagement. Below are the crucial steps to adopting organizational citizenship behavior.

Step 1: Cultivate a positive organizational culture

This is a critical step and the backbone of implementing organizational citizenship behavior amongst employees. The main objective of this step is to create an atmosphere at work where respect, cooperation, and support for one another are valued. To create a positive culture, leadership is also crucial. There is a need to promote open communication, acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments, and foster a feeling of community among employees. When there is a favourable culture, employees are more inclined to go above and beyond their assigned responsibilities voluntarily.

Step 2: Clarify Expectations and Values

At this step, it is important to emphasize the significance of organizational citizenship conduct while clearly defining the organization's values and expectations. Use all available channels to let all staff members know what is expected of them, such as orientation programs, employee handbooks, and frequent team meetings.

Employees are more inclined to act in ways that advance the organization as a whole when they recognize the value of their contributions beyond the scope of their jobs.

Step 3: Provide continuous training and development

It is essential to provide training courses that emphasize communication, cooperation, and interpersonal skills. Provide workers with the resources they need to develop their skills and make valuable contributions to the company. Training sessions might also cover emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and conflict resolution.

Step 4: Recognize and reward organizational citizenship behaviours

Establish a system of rewards and recognition for staff members who exhibit good corporate citizenship. This can take the shape of official recognition schemes, open recognition during team meetings, or even small tokens of appreciation. Acknowledging and recognizing these actions encourages the participants and serves as a role model for others to follow.

Step 5: Encourage leadership support

Leadership plays a pivotal role in modelling and promoting organizational citizenship behavior. There is a need to urge leaders to demonstrate these traits by their own choices and actions.

When staff members observe leaders exhibiting proactive support, teamwork, and dedication, it serves to underscore the significance of organizational citizenship behavior across the whole enterprise. Support from the leadership has a knock-on effect, encouraging workers at all levels to embrace and adopt organizational citizenship behavior.

Theories Informing Organizational Citizenship Behavior

Dennis Organ originally developed the theory surrounding organizational citizenship behavior in the late 1970s. Some key elements and theories that contribute to the understanding of organizational citizenship behavior are discussed in this section.

Social Exchange Theory: Organizational citizenship behavior can be explained through the social exchange theory. This theory found that individuals engage in voluntary behaviours when they perceive a reciprocal relationship. When workers perceive that their contacts with the company are fair and reciprocal, they may participate in organizational citizenship behaviours.

Norms of Reciprocity: Similar to the social exchange theory, this hypothesis suggests that people feel obligated to return favours when they receive them. In the context of organizational citizenship behaviours, employees are more willing to participate in discretionary activities that benefit the company when they believe they are treated fairly by the organization.

Altruism and Prosocial Behavior: Organizational citizenship behaviour is frequently linked to prosocial conduct and altruism. Workers participate in organizational citizenship behavior because they sincerely care about their co-workers and the success of the company.

Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979): According to social identity theory, people get their sense of self-worth and identity from belonging to certain groups. Employees are more likely to act in ways that advance the organization overall when they have a strong sense of identity with it.

Psychological Contract: One way to view organizational citizenship behavior is as a component of the psychological contract that exists between employer and employees. Employees are more inclined to participate in organizational citizenship behavior when they believe that there is a psychological contract that encompasses justice, respect, and mutual trust.

Overall, the theory of organizational citizenship behavior emphasizes the significance of social and psychological elements in influencing employee behaviours outside of the purview of their official jobs. It highlights how the working connection is reciprocal and how organizational elements affect employees' voluntary, constructive contributions.

Related: Employee Engagement Strategies 2023

Organizational Citizenship Behavior: Antecedents and Consequences

Organizations want and need employees who will do those things that are not incorporated in any job description. Research indicates that those organizations that have such employees outperform those that don't. As a result, some human subject studies are concerned with organizational citizenship behavior as a dependent variable.

The antecedents of organizational citizenship behavior from a comprehensive perspective could include role clarity, leadership, organizational commitment, organizational justice and individual traits. The impact of these antecedents is correlated with five organizational performance parameters, namely reduced turnover, reduced absenteeism, employee satisfaction and loyalty, and consumer satisfaction and consumer loyalty.

Though there are research studies that provide the domain of organizational citizenship behavior and its effects on organizational performance, they have varied viewpoints and are inadequate. Some studies have raised the need to assess the influence of age, gender and experience on organizational citizenship behavior, which has been the main gap in the existing literature on organizational citizenship behavior.

Job satisfaction is one of the main antecedents determining organizational citizenship behavior. When workers are happy and content, they are more inclined to act freely and make a good contribution to the company. A symbiotic relationship between job happiness and organizational citizenship is constantly revealed by research, showing the significance of employee contentment in promoting organizational citizenship.

One significant antecedent is employee engagement, which demonstrates a stronger bond and dedication to the company. Employees who are actively involved are more likely to volunteer and show initiative. Research continuously shows that employee engagement has a positive effect on organizational commitment and discretionary behavior, highlighting the relationship between the two.

The effects of organizational citizenship behaviour go far beyond individual behavior, including the core elements of successful organizations. Improved organizational performance follows naturally since discretionary work leads to increased output and effectiveness. Research findings highlight the beneficial effects of organizational citizenship behavior on metrics of organizational performance and highlight its significance in accomplishing organizational objectives.

Reduced turnover is one of the benefits of organizational citizenship behavior. Workers who put out discretionary effort and have a strong sense of loyalty to the company are less likely to look for other jobs. This promotes organizational stability, lowers attrition costs, and fosters a more harmonious workplace.

An organization's reputation is shaped in part by its corporate citizenship practices. Positive public perception is enhanced by engaged staff members who go above and beyond expectations. Companies with a reputation for supporting organizational citizenship behaviour are seen as appealing to work for and socially conscious by the public, which affects their standing in the community.

Organizational citizenship behaviour is essential in fostering positive organizational dynamics. Recognizing the antecedents that drive these discretionary behaviours and appreciating the far-reaching consequences underscore the value of cultivating a workplace culture that not only encourages performance excellence but also celebrates the voluntary contributions that elevate both individuals and the organization as a whole.

Organizational citizenship behaviour examples

Below is an outline of some of the specific examples of organizational citizenship behavior, illustrating the diverse ways in which employees can contribute beyond their basic job requirements.

Helping Colleagues: The willingness to support colleagues is one example of organizational citizenship behavior. This could include helping out when a colleague is overburdened with work, sharing knowledge to improve others' job performance, or just providing direction to colleagues to get them through difficult situations.

These deeds cultivate a cooperative atmosphere in which reciprocal assistance becomes an essential part of the company culture.

Volunteering for Additional Tasks: Workers who participate in organizational citizenship behavior may choose to take on assignments or projects that go outside their stated scope of work. This proactive strategy helps achieve larger team or organizational goals in addition to fostering personal development. It demonstrates a dedication to group accomplishment that goes above and beyond the requirements of a job description.

Positive Communication: Employees that demonstrate organizational citizenship behavior foster a pleasant communication environment, which is essential for company success. This entails actively participating in discussions that promote a friendly and transparent environment in addition to constructively expressing thoughts and criticism. These kinds of actions help create a work environment where good communication is expected.

Adaptability and Flexibility: Another aspect of organizational citizenship behavior is a willingness to welcome new challenges and adjust to change. Workers who voluntarily adapt to new procedures, tools, or workplace cultures enhance the agility of the company. This flexibility is essential for managing a work environment that is constantly changing.

Positive work ethic: Positivity in the workplace is essential to organizational citizenship behavior. Workers who go above and beyond what is required of them in their positions show great dedication to their work. This dedication and a proactive mindset support an environment that values excellence and ongoing development.

Participation in decision-making: Active participation in decision-making processes is one organizational citizenship behavior that enhances the performance of a companMentoring and developing othersy. Workers who add significant value to team meetings and conversations about organizational strategy help foster a collaborative and inclusive culture. This conduct improves the organization's overall capacity for making decisions.

Mentoring and developing others: Investing in co-workers' professional growth is a kind of organizational citizen behavior. A culture of learning and collaboration is fostered by the mentorship of new hires and knowledge sharing to support others' professional development. This conduct builds the organization's general knowledge base in addition to enhancing individual capabilities.

Tips for Sustaining Organizational Citizenship Behaviours

Sustaining organizational citizenship behaviours in organizations requires a thoughtful and strategic approach that encompasses leadership, culture, and ongoing engagement. Below is an outline of tips to sustain organizational citizenship behaviours.

  1. Foster a positive and supportive work environment

  • Create a culture of appreciation and recognition;
  • Encourage open communication and feedback;
  • Promote teamwork and collaboration;
  • Provide opportunities for training and development.

2. Empower employees and give them autonomy.

  • Give employees the freedom to make decisions and solve problems;
  • Provide employees with the resources they need to do their jobs effectively;
  • Encourage employees to take ownership of their work.

3. Encourage ethical and socially responsible behaviour.

  • Lead by example;
  • Create a code of ethics and conduct;
  • Provide training on ethics and social responsibility.

4. Promote work-life balance

  • Offer flexible work arrangements;
  • Provide generous vacation and sick leave policies;
  • Offer employee assistance programs (EAPs).

5. Measure and track organizational citizenship behaviours

  • Develop a system for measuring organizational citizenship behaviours;
  • Track organizational citizenship behaviours over time;
  • Use data to inform decision-making.


In conclusion, the article sheds light on the significant advantages and recommended strategies associated with fostering organizational citizenship behavior.

Cindy Baker
Brandon Murambinda
I am a highly organized and dedicated human resources practitioner and consultant with a passion for organizational design and development. I am also an experienced writer with a knack for creating clear, concise, and engaging content. I have hands-on experience managing human resource functions such as job evaluation, employee engagement, and organizational restructuring. I am also an enthusiast of human resource ethics.

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