OCBs Pt 1: Introducing a Series

by Dr Deirdre O’Donovan, Lecturer in HRM and MA HRM Course Coordinator, Cork Institute of Technology.

This introductory post is the first in a series which will explore the good, and the bad, of a concept that many engage in, but perhaps few are aware of.


Organisational Citizenship Behaviours (OCBs) are supra-role, voluntary behaviours . Essentially, they are the activities that individuals undertake that go beyond their job requirements i.e. the things employees do that they don’t strictly have to. These activities may be as wide as an employee voluntarily taking a new hire under their wing to give some ad hoc on the job training, or may be as simple as answering a phone. Regardless of the scope of the activity, OCBs undertaken by employees collectively combine to improve organisational functioning .

While clearly carrying potential benefits for organisations, there is also a darker side to OCBs, presenting a conundrum for HRM. First, given that employees today are often encouraged to give more, are we at risk of damaging the goodwill that results in voluntary OCBs being undertaken? Second, given that OCBs are supra-role, they are, strictly speaking, non-rewardable, which may pose problematic if employees perceive inequity at any point, as they are likely to factor their OCBs into such a judgement, intensifying their feelings. Third, as OCBs are behaviours that extend beyond the job role or job description, employees may be overworking, increasing the potential for stress and burnout. Similarly, employees may simply end up spreading themselves too thinly, to the detriment of the job they were actually hired to do.

This series will explore the concept of OCBs, by more fully explaining what they are, and discussing why HR should be interested. Later posts will also discuss the potential benefits and challenges associated with OCBs. Finally, the links between OCBs and the more familiar concepts of Inclusion and Employee Engagement will also be explored in further posts.

See, for example, the work of Organ (1988)
See, for example, the work of Tambe and Shanker (2014), Markóczy et al. (2009).

About the author

Dr Deirdre O’Donovan is currently a lecturer in Human Resource Management in Cork Institute of Technology, Cork, Ireland, and the course coordinator for the MA in HRM. Previous research focussed on National Culture and Performance Management, while her current research interests are primarily rooted in Industrial/Organisational Psychology, Inclusion and HRM.
LinkedIn: https://ie.linkedin.com/in/deirdre-o-donovan-phd-0a3b741a
Email: [email protected]