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Organizational citizenship behaviors

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Organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB) are a buzzword in contemporary organizational research. Usually defined as “intentional employee behavior that is discretionary and typically not recognized or rewarded but that nonetheless improves the functioning of the organization” (Dalal, 2005, p.1241), OCB are also considered as an essential driver of continuous organizational improvements. In most cases, OCB are believed to reduce the scope of counterproductive workplace behaviors (CWB). In reality, the multidimensionality of OCB and CWB makes it impossible to create a linear relationship between the two constructs.

OCB incorporates the elements of intentional actions and decisions made by employees beyond the realm of their regular workplace obligations. They are always intended to enhance organizational performance and help people within the organization (Spector & Fox, 2002). In this context, CWB look like a direct opposite to OCB in the sense that they do not benefit the organization and, moreover, result in considerable organizational damage (Dalal, 2005). In reality, the relationship between OCB and CWB is quite complicated. That individuals engage in OCB does not mean they will not display CWB. Dalal (2005) writes that OCB have two typical dimensions: an interpersonal one (OCB-I) and organizational one (OCB-O). For instance, employees can be very active helping their coworkers (OCB-I) and even more active praising their organization at home (OCB-O) (Dalal, 2005). Simultaneously, employees may be willing to praise their organization to those, who know nothing about it (OCB-O), while also gossiping about their colleagues in the workplace or coming late at work. Employees can be positive towards other employees, whereas their perceptions of and intentions towards the organization can be totally negative. Therefore, OCB and CWB are not mutually exclusive, and managers should be aware of the differences between these two constructs and the ways, in which they are related.

OCB factors can contribute to the development of counterproductive behaviors in the workplace. I once observed how one of my co-workers, trying to benefit the organization and improve its performance, was gossiping about one of his colleagues. His intent was to attract managers’ attention to the low quality of the colleague’s performance. Managers seemed indifferent towards the problems the entire department was facing because of one worker, but gossiping was definitely not the best way to get rid of the unwanted employee. Eventually, both the gossiper and his victim were dismissed, the former because of his counterproductive behaviors and the latter due to low performance results. Unfortunately, it is not until he lost his job that the gossiper realized the nature and implications of his counterproductive behaviors in the workplace.

Managers cannot also be secured from the risks of misbehaviors. Very often, managers’ misbehaviors have dramatic impacts on the entire organization. Misbehaviors are intentional actions and decisions made within organizations that violate the fundamental organizational, ethical, and societal norms (Vardi & Wiener, 1996). Managers can engage in several types of misbehaviors. They can misbehave to benefit the organization (Vardi & Wiener, 1996). They can also misbehave to benefit themselves (Vardi & Wiener, 1996). Finally, they can choose misbehaviors to inflict intentional damage on the organization (Vardi & Wiener, 1996). For example, and as mentioned earlier, managers can pretend they do not notice employees’ gossips or poor performance, just to avoid the performance appraisal and management turmoil. At times, managers feel powerful enough to violate the societal and organizational norms within the organization. In these situations, the damage caused to the organization and its stakeholders can be devastating. The most notorious organizational failures, including Enron, took place mostly due to managers’ organizational and societal misbehaviors. Almost always, such misbehaviors result from the lack of a solid corporate culture. Consequently, organizations should become more attentive to the potential signs of misbehaviors and the basic factors leading to counterproductive behaviors in the workplace.

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