Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) is a term used to describe discretionary behavior at work where an employee goes above and beyond what’s written in their job description to either help other coworkers or to help the organization. The evidence shows that engagement, empowerment, and leading by example all produce more citizenship behavior from employees. You want your employees to be good citizens, because this extra effort at the individual level aggregates to enhanced performance of your business.
A new study published in Personnel Psychology (full citation below) suggests another reason to promote OCB at work – it can help your employees display a more positive mood. This unique study equipped 68 employees with mobile devices and cued them twice a day for 29 days to answer questions about their behaviors and moods. The helping behaviors examined in this study were altruism (e.g. helped someone from outside my workgroup, cooperatively worked with others) and courtesy (e.g. checked with others before doing something that would affect their work, taken steps to prevent problems with other workers).
The study found that when workers reported a negative mood and then engaged in altruistic helping behaviors, their mood became more positive. This effect was particularly strong for individuals high in extroversion. Courtesy behaviors also produced positive moods, but the results were somewhat mixed and not as strong as were the results for altruistic behaviors. According to the authors:
If indeed, “doing good” leads to “feeling good,” then organizations may consider feeling good an additional benefit to engaging in helping, which is often organizationally encouraged through mechanisms such as mentoring, participation in volunteer efforts, or team coaching. Expansion of such organizational practices, often designed with primarily employee development objectives important to the organization, may also reap unexpected benefits in terms of regulating individual mood. (p. 214).
So the next time you find yourself in a bad mood at work, consider getting up and helping someone with their work. Not only will it enhance productivity and your own social capital, it might also make you feel better! If you witness your employees in a down mood, find ways to get them helping others, or invite them to spend a little time helping you with something you are working on.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Full citation: Glomb, T.M. et al. (2011). Doing good, feeling good: Examining the role of organizational citizenship behavior in changing mood. Personnel Psychology, 64: 191-223.