How and Why to adopt citizenship behavior

Research shows that when employees are willing to go beyond their formal roles by helping out coworkers, volunteering to take on special assignments, introducing new ideas and work practices, attending non-mandatory meetings, putting in extra hours to complete important projects, and so forth, their companies are more efficient and effective. As a result, a critical task for successful managers is to motivate their employees to engage in these extra-role behaviors, which researchers refer to as “citizenship behaviors.”

Although the benefits of citizenship behavior for organizational performance are clear, the implications for employees are more equivocal. On one hand, many employees perform acts of citizenship because they feel committed to and connected with their peers, supervisors, and organizations – being a good organizational citizen can be personally as well as professionally rewarding because it makes work more meaningful, invigorating, and contributes to better performance evaluations. On the other hand, some studies have also shown that employees sometimes feel pressured to be good organizational citizens and may only doing so in order to enhance their image.

Given the importance of citizenship behavior for organizational success, it is important that managers enable employees find better ways to go beyond the call of duty and help in making work more meaningful as well as less depleting. One potentially effective way of doing this is something we refer to as “citizenship crafting.”

The idea of citizenship crafting is based on the concept of job crafting, in which people redesign their work by altering aspects of the job itself (task crafting), the people with whom they work (relationship crafting), and their mindset about their jobs (cognitive crafting) in ways that play to their strengths, motives, and passions. Though job crafting captures how employees redesign their formal role at work, citizenship crafting is based on the notion that employees can proactively shape the ways in which they go beyond the call of duty such that they not only contribute to the organization, but that they are also personally meaningful, rewarding, and consistent with their strengths.

While employees are the ones who will, ideally, craft their citizenship behavior, they will consider not only their personal needs but also of their manager and colleagues. For this reason, we encourage managers to let their employees know what types of citizenship behavior are most important for their work-group, while also recognizing that asking employees to engage in too much citizenship can be counterproductive. Employees should also be forthright in communicating to their managers the types of citizenship behavior are most consistent with their strengths, motives, and passions. Employees feel comfortable making a conscious decision to voluntarily assist their colleagues who are appreciative and generous in return – offering the type of assistance that is not a burden to provide.

Although citizenship crafting is a new idea, prior research indicates that it would benefit employees and managers alike. First, to the extent that jobs contain tasks which align with employees’ intrinsic motives, and are absent of tasks which employees feel forced to complete, Job performance tends to be significantly higher; in such scenarios and citizenship crafting would result in higher quality and more impactful acts. Second, employees who are able to engage in citizenship behaviors that play to their strengths and passions, would feel less stressed and worn out from going the extra mile. By realizing that not all good citizens look alike, and by allowing employees to tailor their citizenship to fit their unique interests and talents, managers can simultaneously enhance employee well-being as well as work-group productivity. Finally, citizenship crafting should reduce the need for managers to rely on extrinsic sticks and carrots to motivate employees for going the extra mile. This should not only conserve financial resources, but given the evidence that extrinsic rewards can sometimes undermine intrinsic motivation citizenship crafting should also help employees stay internally driven to go the extra mile.

The team at Actuate Business Consulting, a knowledge based management consulting firm in India, believes, that manager and employee efforts to enhance the meaningfulness of work, by redesigning employee jobs, should not stop where the formal job description ends. Instead, it should also focus on encouraging employees to thoughtfully and proactively craft their citizenship behavior in ways that their extra-role contributions lead to more meaning and fulfillment, while also enhancing the firm’s performance.

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