When we perform above and beyond expectations by helping others at work, our efforts aggregate over time, which benefits our organization’s effectiveness and often helps us receive more favorable performance evaluations. Our attitudes, how we are lead, and to a much lesser degree our personality affect our willingness to be good citizens at work.
Fortunately, job satisfaction and organizational commitment are the two biggest drivers of citizenship behaviors. This is great news because we can change our attitudes. We should seek work that we enjoy, people we enjoy working with, and people to work for who treat others fairly. When we reach the point where we can say “I want to be here doing this important work with you,” our citizenship often flourishes.
Supportive behavior on the part of our leaders also enhances our willingness to help others at work. When our leaders help us, they help themselves by encouraging a work environment where the “helping virus” can live, grow, and improve the health or our organization.
With the exception of conscientiousness, our personality has little to do with being a good citizen at work. Even if it is not our natural inclination, all of us can learn to be more organized, thorough, and deliberate in the performance of our job.
Our attitudes, leadership, and personality are all legitimate reasons why we might chose to simply perform the specifics of our job description and never help others at work, but none of these can ever be an excuse. Citizenship is a choice, and even if ours is never encouraged, supported, and rewarded, we can never escape our responsibility to do the right thing.
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Citation: Podsakoff, P.M., MacKenzie, S.B., Pain, J.B., & Bachrach, D.G. (2000). Organizational citizenship behavior: A critical review of the theoretical and empirical literature and suggestions for future research. Journal of Management, 26:3, 513-563.