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5 Common Types of Organizational Citizenship Behavior

What is Organizational Citizenship Behavior?

What is Organizational Citizenship Behavior?

Organizational citizenship behavior is the technical psychological term for what can be simply defined as the compilation of individual behaviors in a group setting. Organizational citizenship behavior was first defined by Dennis Organ in 1988 as "an individual behavior which is not rewarded by a formal reward system ... but that, when combined with the same behavior in a group, results in effectiveness." In the business world, organizational citizenship behavior has been linked to work productivity, employee effectiveness, and other factors which can impact a business in the short or long term. Common examples of business organizational citizenship behavior occur when employees are grouped together, which may occur on a regular basis or a part of a special or temporary assignment. For example, employees in the marketing department will display organizational citizenship behavior on a regular basis because of they are co-workers in the same department; employees who are put together for a temporary work assignment will also display organizational citizenship behavior, albeit on a temporary basis.

Five Common Types of Organizational Citizenship Behavior

Organizational Citizenship Behavior
Dennis Organ's major 1988 study on organizational citizenship behavior defined the concept into five common behaviors. Organ's study suggested that, when these common behaviors are exhibited in a group setting, it will lead to effectiveness. In the context of business, this means that the five most common organizational citizenship behaviors will lead to more productivity and more effective work. Although today psychologists recognize dozens of other common positive organizational citizenship behaviors, the five defined by Organ in 1988 are still considered to be the most significant. The five most common behaviors, as defined by Dennis Organ, are: altruism, courtesy, sportsmanship, conscientiousness, and civic virtue.


Altruism is defined as the desire to help or otherwise assist another individual, while not expecting a reward in compensation for that assistance. A common example outside of a business setting would be someone who drives a neighbor to work when their car has broken down, while not expecting gas money or favors in compensation. In a business setting, altruistic behavior is generally related to the work or project that the business group is working on. Someone exhibiting altruistic behavior in a group setting might volunteer to work on certain special projects, voluntarily helping or assisting other employees with their work or with other tasks, and volunteering to do additional work in order to help other employees reduce their own work load. Altruism in the workplace leads to productivity and effectiveness because it encourages good inter-employee relations; it can also reduce the stress load on other employees, such as those who are overwhelmed without a little bit of help, which will in turn increase productivity.


Courtesy is defined as behavior which is polite and considerate towards other people. Courtesy outside of a workplace setting includes behavior such as asking how someone's morning has been or asking after the welfare of a neighbor's child. In a business context, courtesy is usually exhibited through behaviors such as inquiring about personal subjects that a coworker has previously brought up, asking if a coworker is having any trouble with a certain work related project, and informing coworkers about prior commitments or any other problems that might cause them to reduce their workload or be absent from work. Courtesy not only encourages positive social interactions between employees, which improve the work environment, but they can reduce any potential stress that might occur from employees who do not have the courtesy to inform their coworkers about issues such as upcoming absences from work—and so on.


Sportsmanship is defined as exhibiting no negative behavior when something does not go as planned--or when something is being perceived as annoying, difficult, frustrating or otherwise negative. Outside of a business context, sportsmanship is most commonly associated with sports and games--poor sportsmanship, for example, might occur when a player on a soccer team swears stomps and argues when their team loses a soccer game. In the context of business, good sportsmanship is usually related to potential complaints about work or workloads in addition to negativity surrounding work-related surprises. For example: Imagine an employee who submits their proposal to their superior may be expecting it to be well-received and accepted—it is rejected, instead, and the employee displays good sportsmanship by not complaining about the situation to other coworkers or individuals who may report their behavior to others working for the business.


Conscientiousness is defined as behavior that suggests a reasonable level of self-control and discipline, which extends beyond the minimum requirements expected in that situation. In the context of a business setting, conscientiousness is observed when an employee not only meets their employer’s requirements—such as coming into work on time and completing assignments on time—but exceeds them. Exceeding these requirements, and thereby showing conscientiousness, could be observed—for example—by an employee planning ahead to ensure that they, and their coworkers, do not become overwhelmed in their work.

Civic Virtue

Organizational Citizenship Behavior
Civic virtue is defined as behavior which exhibits how well a person represents an organization with which they are associated, and how well that person supports their organization outside of an official capacity. For example, how well someone represents their business and how they may support that business are all examples of someone's civic virtue.

Examples of civic virtue in a business setting include speaking positively about the business to friends, family and acquaintances; signing up for business events, such as charity walking events or fundraiser parties; and generally supporting the business by always representing the business to the best of their ability even when they are not working. Civic virtue encourages a sense of community within a business setting, which has been shown to be linked to job performance and job satisfaction in employees. Employees who feel a stronger connection with their place of employment are more likely to be productive and effective workers, when compared to those who do not share a sense of community.
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