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What is OCB?

OCB is lately getting some increased buzz in leadership circles. No, I’m not talking about obsessive-compulsive behavior, at least for now anyway.

Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) is a fancy term for employee discretionary effort. In other words, OCB is discretionary behavior that is not part of an employee’s formal job requirements, but that nonetheless supports the effective functioning of the organization. This discretionary effort could include, for example, volunteering for extra work or directly helping others on the team with their assigned job duties.

To carry out their missions effectively, organizations often need employees who do more than their formal job requirements and who perform beyond expectations. In fact, research shows that organizations with such employees outperform organizations that don’t have such employees.

Now, you might be wondering: What’s the recipe for obtaining high levels of OCB in an organization? Trust appears to be a key ingredient. When employees perceive an organization’s processes, procedures, policies, and outcomes to be fair, trust is established. And when you trust your employer, you are more willing to voluntarily engage in behaviors that go beyond your assigned job duties.

Some recent research conducted by Towers Perrin suggests that senior management may have more influence over discretionary effort than does an employee’s immediate boss. This research found that senior management can unlock employee discretionary effort by (1) communicating openly and honestly, (2) being visible and accessible, and (3) showing support for new ideas. These indeed sound like strong trust-building activities.

A global survey conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council in 2004 reported results from 50,000 employees across 59 companies. The results showed that only 11 percent of employees exhibited strong commitment to their organization, greatly assisted others, and consistently tried to improve.

So, what percentage of your organization’s employees exhibit high levels of OCB?

Scott Derrick is the Director of Professional Development at the Senior Executives Association, a nonprofit professional association of career federal executives. Scott is also an executive coach and leadership consultant with the Federal Executive Development Group LLC, a consulting company specializing in leadership development in the federal sector. The views expressed here are his own.

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Profile Photo David Dejewski

Scott Derrick also writes things that make one heck of a lot of sense. Once again, Scott, thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the read and just added a new acronym to my vocabulary.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some more OCB to exhibit before the day is over.