In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCBs)

  • Introduction
  • Theoretical Foundations
  • Definitions
  • Dimensionality
  • Measures
  • Consequences
  • Dark Side of OCB
  • Role in Multidimensional Models of Job Performance
  • Levels of Analysis
  • International Research
  • Books and Narrative Reviews
  • Meta-Analyses

Management Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCBs)
Jeff LePine, Daniel Newton, Ji Koung Kim
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 June 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0091


Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) refers to the behaviors of individuals that promote effectiveness in organizational functioning. OCB accomplishes this effectiveness by providing a positive social and psychological environment in which task work can flourish. OCB is important to employees insofar as it enhances social connections that influence job performance. OCB is one of the most studied content areas in organizational behavior, with many published theoretical pieces, primary research, narrative reviews, edited books, and meta-analyses that describe the nature and functioning of the construct.

Theoretical Foundations

The foundations of OCB are rooted in Barnard 1938 and the notion that individuals’ willingness to cooperate is crucially important and indispensable to the organization. Similarly, Katz 1964 alludes to OCB with its assertion that, in addition to joining and staying with the organization and meeting performance standards, employees need to spontaneously go beyond their roles. Katz and Kahn 1978 extends this idea by describing spontaneous behaviors that are intrinsically cooperative and absolutely necessary to organizational functioning. Bateman and Organ 1983 tests this idea and finds that satisfaction is an important predictor of citizenship behavior. The term OCB, however, was coined in 1983 by Smith, et al. 1983. These scholars were intrigued by the question of why job satisfaction is important to organizations, given that the concept is only weakly related to job performance. Following from this, these scholars have also sought to identify behaviors that are important to organizations but are not formally required as part of the job.

  • Barnard, C. I. The Functions of the Executive. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938.

    Classic book that introduces, among many other ideas, the importance of individuals who willingly cooperate for the good of the larger system.

  • Bateman, T. S., and D. W. Organ. “Job Satisfaction and the Good Soldier: The Relationship between Affect and Employee ‘Citizenship.’” Academy of Management Journal 26.4 (1983): 587–595.

    DOI: 10.2307/255908

    This article extends Katz and Kahn 1978 and describes how individuals enact behaviors that “lubricate the social machinery of the organization” (p. 588). A primary finding is that satisfaction predicts citizenship behavior (with greater strength than past predictions of performance). Available online for purchase.

  • Katz, D. “The Motivational Basis of Organizational Behavior.” Behavioral Science 9.2 (1964): 131–146.

    DOI: 10.1002/bs.3830090206

    Katz identifies three types of important individual behavior fundamental to organizations. One of these behaviors is spontaneous and innovative action that goes beyond one’s role and is an integral idea in conceptualizing OCB. Available online for purchase.

  • Katz, D., and R. L. Kahn. The Social Psychology of Organizations. 2d ed. New York: John Wiley, 1978.

    This seminal work discusses the importance of OCB for organizations. The authors argue that individuals engage in spontaneous behaviors that are cooperative in nature and essential to the functioning of the organizational system. An important aspect of these behaviors is that they extend beyond one’s formal job description and responsibilities.

  • Smith, C., D. W. Organ, and J. P. Near. “Organizational Citizenship Behavior: Its Nature and Antecedents.” Journal of Applied Psychology 68.4 (1983): 653–663.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.68.4.653

    The authors coin OCB and provide the first measure by conducting semi-structured interviews with lower-level managers, who identified instances when employees engaged in helpful but unrequired job behavior. The authors find two general factors of OCB: altruism and generalized compliance. The study emphasizes job satisfaction as an antecedent to OCB. Available online for purchase.

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