Organizational Citizenship Behavior can only be created the authentic way

Today it is almost impossible to anticipate detailed guidelines for employee behavior. Situated coordination and cooperation have become a part of the job. Consequently, working contract, working role and working behavior diverge. Companies have discovered subjectivity as a resource offering performance potentials like commitment, self-control and improvising that are expected to result in a decrease of the cost of coordination and control.

Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) is a committed, flexible employee behavior that shows responsibility for the organization. This includes both behaviors that support the status quo of the organization by aiming at an increase of performance and behaviors that challenge the status quo in order to facilitate change. OCB are basically all behaviors that go beyond the performance according to the contract and thus cannot be claimed by the company or sanctioned if not delivered. This is what makes OCB a strategic resource that cannot be copied.

The essential questions are:

  • Can Organizational Citizenship Behavior be provoked in an instrumentalist way or just in an authentic way?
  • Which form of management enables employees to see how they can make an impact on the organization and make it real?
  • What form of organizational framework is necessary to deliver the required leadership?

While the OCB research aims at filling the gap between the formal working contract/role and the requirements of the business by employee commitment and flexibility that goes beyond duty, the theory of the psychological contract supposes that a working relationship is a relational contract with mutual expectations that cannot be fixed from the start but develop over time.

Both approaches soon reach their limits: trying to provoke OCB in an instrumentalist way overwhelms the employees with ambiguous expectations. They are supposed to work independently and results oriented, but only within the set up frame built of the hierarchy system, preset objectives and allocated resources. Here it is difficult for the employees to distinguish when behaviors differing from standard operating procedures are wanted, in case of doubt they will withdraw to performance according to contract/duty.

Provoking OCB in an authentic way requires that the company starts at its own behaviors: a principle oriented management and an organizational framework that enables the individual to take the long term wellbeing of the organization as a starting point, realize how they can make an impact and make it real. The Citizenship approach questions to which extent existing organizational frameworks are able to give rise to the intended flexible and committed employee behavior.

Based on the political concept of the citizen applied to the organizational context they suggest a democratic management. A participation in the processes of formulating the objectives, putting them into action and being accountable, eventually also a participation in the shares, shall cause organizational citizenship that results in ownership (share/identification) that again results in Organizational Citizenship Behavior of the employees. This is based on the assumption of a citizens’ or entrepreneurial spirit (concept of man). The intended behavior goes way beyond just filling a contract gap as intended by the OCB research, but requires an employee participation in the management of the company.

Acting like a citizen requires citizen virtues such as being intrinsically motivated to show an interest in and actively support the community. Then management becomes a set of tasks. Employees can only be expected to become active citizens if they are provided with citizens’ rights and duties. To put the Citizenship approach into action, the concept is broken down to the organizational citizenship, values, participation structures and participation practices. A core element of the participation structures is the integration of decision, implementation and responsibility, a core element of the participation practices is an integration of action and learning (Manville/Ober).

These insights offer some suggestions for organization practice:

Performance has to be redefined as participation in making, implementing and accounting for decisions. Measuring performance on a group or organization level ensures a responsible self-organization, gives credit to the increasing percentage of teamwork and cooperation and facilitates impacts on the organization (Performance Management).

Psychological ownership is created by a personal investment. The employees make the objectives of the company their own in the process of participating in a democratic leadership, they make the company their own if they hold a share in the company (Employee Shareholding).

It remains unclear which concept of man shall be taken for granted. It cannot be expected that all employees will bring the necessary maturity and responsibility into the organization. Rather, the participation structures and participation practices of the Citizenship approach aim at developing the organizational citizen that is required for a democratic management.

A vast restructuring of the company seems to be necessary that is in contrast to the wide spread shareholder orientation. The acceptance of this approach will depend on its economic success.

If the company achieves to give rise to Organizational Citizenship Behavior, it becomes a marketplace of ideas, a learning community that is able to channel the mental input of thousands of employees in decisive action.

This is my seminar paper of 2007 from my specialization on organizational behavior and leadership:

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