Mediators of the Relationship between Race and Organizational Citizenship Behavior *

Article excerpt

As far back as the 1968 findings of the Kerner Commission, there have been reports of "two [American] societies--separate and unequal" (Harris and Wilkins, 1988: ix). Indeed, the 1997 commission on race formed by President Clinton came to much the same conclusion (Council of Economic Advisers, 1998). While three decades separate the work of the two groups, the main inference drawn is strikingly consistent: with regard to race, there is a persistent chasm in how majority group (white) and minority group (black and nonwhite) members live and view each other. Among the commission's findings supporting this notion were survey data suggesting that non-Hispanic white children were more likely to participate in literary activities (e.g., reading or visiting a library) and use computers than were black or Hispanic children (Council of Economic Advisers, 1998). Large discrepancies were also seen in the perception of equal treatment by the justice system, with black respondents being much more likely than their white counterparts to believe that black citizens are treated more harshly (Council of Economic Advisers, 1998). Put another way, these examples and others suggest a "values gap" exists for racial groups in America, both in how and what they value and how they believe they are valued. This reality has potential implications for research on the extent to which white and nonwhite employees exert effort in service to the organization, specifically in terms of performing "organizational citizenship behaviors."

Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) was defined by Organ as "individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and that in the aggregate promotes the effective functioning of the organization" (Organ, 1988: 4). Other terms used to describe similar domains of behavior include pro-social organizational behavior (Brief and Motowidlo, 1986), extra-role behavior (Van Dyne et al., 1994), organizational spontaneity (George and Brief, 1992), and "counter-role" behavior (Staw and Boettger, 1990). At its roots, OCB is an organizational manifestation of "going beyond the call of duty." Actions that exemplify OCB include such things as volunteering for activities not related to an individual's job description (e.g., planning the company picnic) or assisting others (e.g., a salesperson helping a vendor to unload a truck) (Organ and Ryan, 1995). Even seemingly "required" behavior such as "upholding workplace rules and procedures regardless of personal inconvenience" (Organ and Ryan, 1995: 776), (for instance, coming to work on time) has been cited as representing OCB. Such required behaviors have been called "compliance" and "conscientiousness" and have sometimes been labeled as "in-role prosocial behavior," whereas the more discretionary behavioral domains are often labeled "extra-role prosocial behavior" (Brief and Motowidlo, 1986).

It seems plausible that if workers view their workplace differently based on racial background, then their proclivity to perform selfless behaviors on behalf of the employer might vary by race as well. Two theoretical conceptualizations of OCB may provide logical explanations for such race-based results. One interpretation views OCB as affect-based behavior, the other as a result of cognitive evaluation. In the following pages we summarize various research supporting these primary conceptualizations, as well as literature buttressing arguments for the mediating effects of several independent variables in the race-OCB relationship. We then draw from these foundations to develop and test hypotheses, utilizing an occupationally diverse sample of hospital employees.

OCB as Affect-based Behavior

The idea that OCB is affect-based stems from a more primary notion that behavior such as "the willingness to cooperate" (Barnard, 1938: 85) is a manifestation of "stable dispositions, traits, or temperament ..." (Organ, 1990: 51). …